THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is a consistently hilarious, smart and actually rather moving animated comedy from the team that brought us THE LEGO MOVIE. It's easily the best DC movie in the current reboot, and that includes the gloomily nihilistic Nolan films that it spoofs. To be sure, to get the most out of the film if you're familiar with many many iterations of Batman on screen - from the early Adam West TV show, through Michael Keaton to Nolan and the Battfleck. But you don't need to be a fanboy - just someone who's lived through the last decades of pop culture enough to understand the tropes that this film is ribbing - the idea of Batman as a hugely egotistical psychologically damaged billionaire whose very existence requires the very supervillains he wants to protect his city from.
In this film, Will Arnett plays Lego Batman as a lonely douchebag obsessed with his own abs, reluctant to let anyone into his life for fear of losing them as he lost his parents years ago. His deliberate isolation is broken when adopts a son (Robin - played by Michael Cera) while distracted by the pretty new Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) forces their intimacy by revealing to Robin that one of his two dads is Batman. The emotional arc of the story is thus whether Batman can admit that he likes having a family of sorts - Albert, Robin and Barbara. And that he even likes having the Joker around. Meanwhile, the plot sees the Joker abandon his usual band of Batman villains to recruit an even scarier evil army of assorted fictional villains (everyone from King Kong to Sauron) to force Batman to acknowledge that he's his arch-enemy.
The resulting movie is consistently laugh-out loud funny and the jokes come with such rapidity that it needs a second viewing - certainly to catch a lot of the visual humour in background sight gags. Will Arnett is clearly the star of the film, but the best lines go to Ralph Fiennes as Alfred. But it's also very smart and irreverent in how it deals with Batman and other superhero franchises. I was surprised at just how much I liked it and just how much heart it contained behind the humour. I guess my fear is that given its success, we're bound to get a sequel, and yet this story seems to perfectly crafted and contained its hard to see where it could go next.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is rated PG and has a running time of 104 minutes. The movie is on release everywhere except Portugal, where it opens on February 16th, India where it opens on February 17th, China, where it opens on March 3rd, Australia, where it opens on March 30th, Japan where it opens on April 1st, and Israel and New Zealand where it opens on April 6th.