Super fun

LEGO version of Batman comic is a blast

Starring the voices of Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera and Ralph Fiennes. Directed by Chris McKay. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG.
Rated 4.0

Before I get into The LEGO Batman Movie, I have to say that Batman has been sort of a downer at the cinemas. The “Dark Knight” has really lived up to his name since Tim Burton’s Batman came out in 1989. He can be a morose sourpuss as he deals with some pretty dour stuff.

Wait a minute. Has it really been 28 years since Burton’s Batman came out? Holy crap, I just freaked myself out. Hang on … I need to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. It’s been nearly three freaking decades since Nicholson played the Joker? I need to drink five beers.

All right … OK … back on point.

When Batman hasn’t been quite so dour, he’s just plain sucked; as in the two Joel Schumacher-directed installments in the mid-1990s.

Wait a minute. Did Val Kilmer really play Batman more than two decades ago? I think I’m having a panic attack. I can’t catch my breath. Gimme that paper bag …

OK, I’m back. So, granted, Batman’s story is inherently dark by nature, being all orphaned and inspired by bats and dispatching vigilante justice at night and whatnot. But, hey, sometimes it’s good to have a laugh or two while watching the Caped Crusader do his thing, if only because some of us have a sweet spot for when Adam West played the character for laughs more than 40 years ago.

Wait. Seriously. Four decades have passed?! I have to take a long break and contemplate my life before finishing this review. I’ll be back in the morning, after I wake up from crying myself to sleep.

All right, where was I? Oh yes, Batman. The LEGO Batman Movie is a great Batman story, with Will Arnett voicing Batman with a super-amped, still dark but amazingly well-rounded and sometimes humorous incarnation. After all of these years watching dark (and sometimes brilliant) Batman movies, it’s nice to have one where we can also have fun with the character. And director Chris McKay—along with a long list of writers—has come up with a story that will please adult Batman fans as much as the kids.

Arnett’s Batman not only faces off against the Joker (a very funny Zach Galifianakis), but also finds himself in a scenario where he’s battling a smorgasbord of movie villains including King Kong, the Gremlins, Dracula, evil British robots and Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort (Eddie Izzard), to name just a few. It’s a nutty plot element that also allows for Batman mainstays like Bane, Two-Face (Billy Dee Williams, who voiced Harvey Dent in Burton’s Batman) and The Riddler (Conan O’Brien!) to get in on the act.

It’s a geek fest, a movie lover’s delight that has funny little trivia bits at nearly every turn, and an emotional center (Batman has family issues; the Joker longs to be hated) that gives the movie a surprising depth among the chaos.

Michael Cera and Ralph Fiennes bring good humor as Robin and Alfred, although Fiennes doesn’t voice Voldemort, which seems like a wasted opportunity.

The LEGO Batman Movie gives us a Batman tale that is a little brighter than the brooding Christopher Nolan trilogy, and way better than last year’s atrocious Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s loaded with funny nods to the entire history of Batman, and fully functions as a standalone Bat story. May sequels abound!