Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fun 'LEGO Batman Movie' has heart

Why is Batman awesome? Because he's Batman. Why doesn't the Caped Crusader need or want any help when he's taking down bad guys?

That's the philosophy behind the LEGO direct-to-video movies. When taking a light-hearted approach to a billionaire with a tragic past who now prefers to be a loner, why not exploit that? And while you're at it, why not lampoon that aspect of Batman's personality and pay homage to each of his eight live-action films and the zany TV series?

That's exactly what "The LEGO Batman Movie" does. Everything from Tom Hardy's Sean Connery-esque Bane voice to Dick Grayson's gung-ho attitude and especially the Joker's obsession with being the Dark Knight's greatest foe are all targeted.

But it's not just a satire; director Chris McKay's animated flick has a heart that Warner Bros.' live-action incarnations have lacked for the most part.

"LEGO Batman" is jam-packed with action, Batman gadgets, detailed, top-notch animation and hysterical one-liners. Any fan who enjoyed the original "LEGO Movie" will dig its Gotham City counterpart.

This delightful animated movie has as many cameos as it does hysterical dialogue and situations.

Batfans will love seeing how many villains they can identify. Every notable member of the Dark Knight's Rogues Gallery makes an appearance -- as do obscure one-shot baddies from the comic books (Orca and Kite-Man) and "Batman: The Animated Series" (the Condiment King). The Justice League of course has a cameo in "The LEGO Batman Movie." And even some heroes from the "Super Friends" cartoon. So are King Kong, Lord Voldemort, Godzilla and the Wicked Witch of the West -- thanks to the Joker's scheme involving the Phantom Zone.

By introducing Grayson and Barbara Gordon to the mix, the writers put Batman into a set of circumstances to make him realize he can't do everything by himself. His first mission with Grayson as Robin gives him feelings of -- gasp! -- happiness and fulfillment he's never experienced. Yet even after a reluctant and successful partnership with Alfred Pennyworth, Robin and Gordon, Batman isn't willing to commit to teamwork.

The LEGO Batman is just as hard-headed, afraid to embrace change and unwilling to accept other people's ideas as fans have seen in other extreme incarnations of the Dark Knight.

As I've said for decades, the most interesting part of the Caped Crusader's universe -- and/or what make he and his stories so intriguing -- are his supporting cast and their relationships. What the LEGO Batman finally embraces is one of his greatest fears -- not clown-snakes, silly! -- but a new family.

Or as Batman himself says, the bat in his name stands for "best at teamwork." Grade: A

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