Sunday, July 10, 2016

Holy 'Gotham City Breakout', Batman!: Animated LEGO movie review

The creators behind the series of direct-to DVD/Blu-ray animated LEGO movies are back with their usual antics.

The silliness this time in "Justice League: Gotham City Breakout" (out Tuesday) features the Batman family and Justice League (or at least three members, four if you count the Dark Knight) with a special appearance by the Teen Titans.

The voice cast from previous "Justice League" LEGO flicks return and the actors from the goofy yet undeniably delightful "Teen Titans Go!" series also reprise their roles. It's hard to imagine anyone else voicing Robin, Cyborg, Starfire and Beast Boy at this point. (I just realized Raven isn't there. Huh.)

Once again this movie carries the Justice League banner, but like all the other LEGO films featuring DC Comics heroes, "Gotham City Breakout" is most decidedly a Batman-centric story. You can't blame Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment for shaking their moneymaker while still getting the Justice League name out there before Zack Snyder's live-action "Justice League" comes out Nov. 17, 2017.

Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl coordinate a surprise vacation for Batman to celebrate the anniversary of his first appearance in Gotham City. With the assurance from the perpetually buffoonish Superman that he and Robin can handle crime in the city, Batman and Co. head off for vacation. In suit, of course!
Screen capture by CARY ASHBY/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE
Mayhem naturally ensues in Gotham when the Joker tricks Supes into using his heat vision to release Harley Quinn, the Penguin, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow from Arkham Asylum. (Superman is astonished to learn that non-super-powered villains can be so challenging.)

Screen capture by CARY ASHBY/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE
That's the subplot to the main story: Batman, Batgirl and Nightwing track down the Dark Knight's former martial arts sensei, a feisty, elderly woman named Madame Mantis, who has been kidnapped from her dojo on an isolated island and taken into its depths.

There are several ongoing schticks worth a chuckle or two:
• Madame Mantis' nickname for Batman from when he was her student: Batface
• Deathstroke fares far worse; Madame Mantis only calls him Strokedeath, which really irritates him.
• Nightwing realizes his "Holy (fill in the blank)!" exclamations from when he was a youthful Robin still are "a thing" — a nice homage to the unforgettable "Batman" TV series. (There's another tip of the cowl, but I won't ruin it.)
• Madam Mantis bonks characters on the head with her cane.
• By far, the funniest — and most creative — moment is when Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl interrupt Bane's monologue.

Screen capture by CARY ASHBY/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE
The Joker's use of his spoon sidekick and Superman making Robin go home to do his homework gets tiresome.

On the other hand, Bat-centric fans might enjoy seeing Robin later teach Supes, Wonder Woman and Cyborg that there's only one way to catch criminals in Gotham City: "The Bat way!" ("I wouldn't have had to save you if you listened to me in the first place," the Boy Wonder tersely tells Superman.)

The best line goes to Cyborg: "I had the strangest dream. There was a hot tub … and Wonder Woman …" Strange dream, dude? Sounds, uh, well, you know … Moving on!

"Gotham City Breakout" is a good time and not a bad way to spend nearly 80 minutes. It's especially enjoyable if you're a Batman fan with a sense of humor. As with the other installments, this movie is solid, family-friendly fun.

While it's not as funny as "The Batman Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite" and/or "Justice League vs. Bizarro League," "Gotham City Breakout" is at least worth a Red Box rental or library check-out.
Screen capture by CARY ASHBY/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE
Sadly, there are no extras. I was surprised at how disappointed I was not to see the faux-outtakes or a short film. Maybe next time …

Grade: B

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