Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

2/4

Starring (voices): Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis

Rated PG for Rude Humor and Some Action

When "The Lego Movie" came out three years ago, I was as incredulous as the next guy.  A movie about Lego building blocks?  I mean, I know Hollywood has a phobia of risk and an obsessive love of "brand names," but this is ridiculous.  Also like everyone else, I was blown away by the result.  It was a clever, inventive and hilarious movie that was bursting with energy and creativity.  But that manic zeal of ideas and gags that tumbled all over themselves is missing in this spin-off.  Instead, we have an unending list of superhero cameos and nerd culture shout outs.  It may please the Comic Con cosplayers and Joss Whedon, but everyone else will see it for what it is: a sequel from when sequel meant a movie rushed to theaters to capitalize on its predecessor's success.

Batman (Arnett) is the most self-absorbed man in Gotham City.  Not only is constantly hogging the spotlight, he is convinced that only he can save the day.  Naturally, this alienates him from everyone else, from the new commissioner Barbara Gordon (Dawson) to his accidentally adopted son Robin (Cera).  Even Joker (Galifianakis) feels slighted; when Batman tells him that he's not his nemesis, Joker is nearly in tears.  Desperate to earn his respect, Joker plots to release all the evil from Superman's Phantom Zone and destroy Gotham.  Only by learning to accept help from his friends and let people close can he save the day.

The problem with "The Lego Batman Movie" is simple: it's just not fun.  All the energy and animation on the screen can't make up for the fact that there isn't a single character worth caring about and only one or two jokes that actually land.  And the message of the movie, while especially relevant these days, is hammered home with the subtlety of an after school special.

The voice acting isn't anything to rave about.  Will Arnett uses Christian Bale's Batman voice, which is a shame because that got irritating when Bale did it.  Rosario Dawson adds some spunk and sex appeal (as far as that can go in a movie about plastic toys), but the script lets her down.  Dawson is a beguiling actress, but not even she can rescue the bland lines she's given.  I'll give credit to Michael Cera for not resurrecting his "Arrested Development" persona for the umpteenth time if Robin wasn't so insufferably annoying.  Only Ralph Fiennes and Zach Galifianakis manage to keep their dignity.

"The Lego Batman Movie" isn't completely devoid of clever moments; the bookending meta-scenes where Batman mocks serious Hollywood movies recalls the opening of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and there are one or to chuckles to be found here (one involves Sauron from "The Lord of the Rings").  But this isn't worth your time and money.

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