Something awesome happened three years ago—The LEGO Movie was released.
Combining jaw-dropping animations, an expansive voice cast, and a joke-a-minute pace, it easily became my favorite animated film of the decade. Oscar snub aside, the clamoring for a sequel was loud and clear, and now we get two in 2017.
So now we have a sub-genre of animation—the “LEGO” movie—which we’ve had for a while, but on mostly straight-to-DVD and television platforms. Much like the Star Wars films, there’s going to be the continuing saga of Emmet from the original film and then whatever spinoffs they wish to do (Batman, Ninjago, etc.)
Luckily, The LEGO Batman Movie features much of what was likable about the original in terms of style and charm. It extends these qualities to the realm of Batman, which isn’t exactly on stable ground when you look at the godawful DCU films. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice holds nary a candle to this one.
Reprising his cocksure Dark Knight from the first film, Will Arnett is ridiculously entertaining. While there aren’t many references to the predecessor—aside from it being hinted that it’s all within one universe and the idea of “Master Builders”–its a relief that they are trying to make this its very own film within the shared universe.
Serving as an excellent LEGO movie in its own rights, it also makes the case for being one of the best Batman films to date. Delving into Batman’s reclusive psyche, he must cope with fighting off some of the worst villains (even outside of DC) of all time along with raising his newly adopted son, Dick Grayson—Robin—voiced by a spunky and hilariously naive Michael Cera. The two are a fun duo, as they should be, and its nice to see Batman have a sidekick of sorts since most modern films have had him be the solo defender of Gotham City.
Unfortunately his cockiness can be a little much by the end of the film, but there’s more than enough going on to help keep up with a main character as unlikable as him. Backing him up is yet another stellar cast that is regrettably underutilized considering that it’s jam-packed with names like Jenny Slate, Conan O’Brien, Zoë Kravitz, Eddie Izzard, Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey, and many others. A lot of the time they just have a one-liner, making it hard for the audience to even guess who might be voicing the character. But then you have Zach Galifianakis playing The Joker and everything becomes awesome all over again—even more so than Jared Leto’s squandered performance in Suicide Squad.
The LEGO Batman Movie is undoubtedly as much fun as the first. While it doesn’t have that certain freshness that its predecessor does, there is so much to love that it is hardly an issue. Staleness is the biggest enemy of the franchise; as long as they keep it fresh, relevant, and witty as this, there is nothing stopping it from being one of the best animated franchises ever.