You have to go back about 20 years – to the George Clooney days – to find a live-action Batman that isn’t sociopathically macho. Recent portrayals have refused to let the orphan-turned-superhero be anything but dark, stormy and brooding. The Lego Batman Movie, on the other hand, finds fun in the idea of a grown man fighting crime in a cape.
Our story begins with Batman (Arrested Development’s Will Arnett) single-handedly saving Gotham City for the umpteenth time and relishing the shallow love it earns him from its citizens. But new commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) decides the city’s reliance on him is unhealthy and cleans up the streets. This forces Batman – an incorrigible loner, prone to working out in the gym as a way of escaping his emotional problems – to spend his time with his accidentally adopted son Dick (Michael Cera) and butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), until a new threat emerges to bring the lot of them together.
If you wanted, you could read The Lego Batman Movie as a parable about the importance of unity in a divided America – or a blockbuster about mental health, in the same way that 2015’s Inside Out was – but it’ll make you laugh so much that you’ll barely notice any kind of message being hammered home. The torrent of gags commences in the opening credits, with a nudge-nudge voiceover from our gravel-throated Batman. It’s a similar start to Deadpool, and this film channels the self-aware humour of that 2016 Marvel smash throughout. Many of the LOLs will sail over kids’ heads – a triumphant “I did something!” from rubbish villain Killer Croc; a cheeky dig at last year’s much-criticised Batman Vs Superman – but there’s plenty here for younger audiences too, thanks mostly to the enjoyable childishness of Lego’s Batman.
Perhaps The Lego Batman Movie should come with a warning, because it’ll be near-impossible for viewers to take Ben Affleck’s Batman seriously as he scowls his way through the forthcoming Justice League after this.