Let's start with the good: There’s finally a Batman movie you can take the kids to! The Lego Batman Movie follows up 2014’s surprisingly wonderful The Lego Movie by focusing on that cinematic universe’s version of Batman, a growling, too-cool-for-school badass voiced by Will Arnett. With a blend of computer animation and actual Lego bricks, the dizzying Lego Batman, like the first Lego Movie, bursts at the edges of the screen: It’s goofy, chipper, fast moving, and colorful, and the antithesis of any other Batman movie made this millennium.
Now for the bad: The Lego Batman Movie may be geared a little too much toward kids. Sure, there are plenty of wisecracks and throwaway gags for eagle-eyed grownups and Batman nuts, but the movie grinds to a halt several times so Batman can learn A Very Important Life Lesson. That lesson? Friends and family are important, and saving the world is easier and more fun if you include them.
Of course, Lego Batman thinks he doesn’t need friends. When he’s done fighting crime, he spends his nights alone at Wayne Manor, eating reheated lobster thermidor and shredding wicked guitar solos. But his inner circle—Robin (Michael Cera), Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson)—is forced to prove their worth once the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) unlocks the Phantom Zone, freeing an army of villains that includes Voldemort, Sauron, and King Kong.
The first Lego Movie was an insane, great thing, capturing a sense of wonderment and childhood creativity. The Lego Batman Movie, on the other hand, feels unspontaneous and focused; you can feel the grip of the adult filmmakers on each tossed-off joke and monologue-with-a-moral. By the end, even Batman and Joker have a heart-to-heart. For a movie that contains this much pure silliness, it’s too bad it thinks it needs to talk down to kids, too.