There are a few rules to being Batman. First: be awesome. Second: only work in black (or sometimes very dark gray). And lastly: always work alone. Though he is loathe to admit it, that last rule is a rule because the Dark Knight has a fear of getting too close to people after losing his parents. But in The Lego Batman Movie, the Caped Crusader has four different people trying to break past his armored exterior and get close to the man behind the cowl.

I’m a huge fan of The Lego Movie and was thrilled when they announced this follow-up. The original was a fast-paced, hilarious, emotional surprise of a film, and The Lego Batman Movie attempts to be the same. They get a lot right. The humor, while not hitting the target quite as much as The Lego Movie, is still fantastic. With superhero films of varying quality coming out as fast as Hollywood can pump them through the pipeline, a film making fun of their world is welcome! DC fans will especially appreciate the many jokes aimed squarely their way. The action is fun and frenetic — maybe too fast and furious sometimes, but that’s a problem I can live with.

Storywise, the plot is a bit thin but stands up pretty well since its real purpose is to set up the characters, the action, and the jokes. But my main issue with the film is why so serious? OK, the movie can’t be all fun and games. But it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers are having to try a little too hard when it’s time for the plot to slow down and be serious. The Lego Movie handled this with aplomb, with a surprisingly deep and layered story that took a wonderful and unexpected emotional turn. Here, while the weighty issues the character is dealing with are understandable, the attempts to deal with them feel forced rather than organic and earned. Luckily, this is an issue you might not even notice if you’re not a film critic! With the jokes flying and the action moving things along, problems get glossed over pretty quickly.

The animation in this movie is wonderful. You can easily forget while watching it all takes place in a world made of bricks. It’s also interesting how very different from The Lego Movie the look of this movie is. It feels much closer in tone to a live-action Batman film than to its predecessor. There aren’t a lot of options for the look of characters, but they make up for that with an imaginative world with a ton of inventive creations.

I’ve found that the best superhero movies usually have a memorable soundtrack, and The Lego Batman Movie delivers. The music is a lot of fun. The score by Lorne Balfe is at times original and at times a tribute to the past, but it all comes together is a very enjoyable way. In addition, the songs — both original and classic — are a big part of the film’s success. Definitely a worthy addition to your Batman soundtrack collection.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: Will Arnett is a member of the pantheon of Batman greats along with the likes of West, Keaton, Bale, and Affleck. Michael Cera is an odd choice for the voice of Robin but works out well in this context. Rosario Dawson is a solid choice for the role of the no-nonsense Barbara Gordon. Ralph Fiennes is fine as Alfred but didn’t bring anything new to the part. (And why didn’t he also do the voice of Voldemort!) Zach Galifianakis is wildly underused as the Joker. And I would have loved to see him do a little more than his normal voice for the character.

The Lego Batman Movie is fun — a lot of fun! While it doesn’t quite reach the story and emotional heights of The Lego Movie, as a sendup of the extremely oversaturated superhero film market it works brilliantly. Lego Batman himself is an incredibly entertaining character, but maybe not the kind who can carry a more weighty plot line like Emmet. And I am OK with that! With the DC Extended Universe plodding along with the most dreary versions of the comic books ever seen on screen, a more lighthearted Lego Batman is the hero audiences need and deserve right now.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

The Lego Batman Movie
Warner Bros, Animal Logic
February 10, 2017
104 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Chris McKay