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Home Entertainment Movies ‘Lego Batman’ offers a joyous take on the iconic Dark Knight

‘Lego Batman’ offers a joyous take on the iconic Dark Knight

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The new trailer for ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ starring Will Arnett and Zach Galifianakis.
Warner Bros.

The not-so-Dark Knight returns in the joyously bonkers The Lego Batman Movie, and he’s not only the hero we need right now but also the one we deserve.

From the moment Lego Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) shouts “Wanna get nuts?!” at his arch supervillain the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) — a nod to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film — the family-friendly animated superhero comedy (***½ out of four; rated PG; in theaters nationwide Friday) maniacally blisters the screen with loving homages to past Bat-flicks, wacky baddies, wickedly clever references (including a great jab at Marvel) and one very unsubtle message: Don’t be a jerk, be a pal.

Directed by Chris McKay (Robot Chicken), Lego Batman leans hard into the “Yay, best friends!” ethos of 2014’s hit The Lego Movie, though its main man has severe loner tendencies: After saving Gotham City for the umpteenth time, billionaire Bruce Wayne’s masked alter ego retires for yet another night of lobster thermidor for one and an unwanted emotional chat with loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes).

Change is afoot for the big guy, though: New police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) implores Batman to be a team player — much to the hero’s disdain — and he’s got a lovable and doe-eyed new orphan son in Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), aka sidekick Robin. Before you can say, “Holy tuxedo dress-up party, Batman!” the kid slips on colorful togs and gradually wins over his new Bat-dad. Their bonds solidify just in time to team up with Barbara and Alfred to stop Joker and his evil army’s latest epic assault when it threatens the very foundation of Gotham.

The movie features a few insanely busy action sequences that, while hugely entertaining, can’t be maintained without leaving heads spinning. The slower, more expositional material may have some little kids squirming but for grown-ups, it allows for some of the best content.

While The Dark Knight won’t be supplanted any time soon as tops among Bat-movies, the new film makes a strong argument for second-best simply by taking time to explore the core of Batman that others haven’t: He’s a complicated mess who can’t get out of his own way long enough for the greater good.

Arnett plays Bats’ growly dudebro vocals with infectious energy, Cera nicely inhabits the naïve Robin, and Dawson is super as Barbara, a heroine who’s easily the Caped Crusader’s equal (and superior in a few ways). They’re supported by a large ensemble of various baddies, though Galifianakis’ surprisingly down-to-earth Joker is a standout: He gives the Clown Prince of Crime a huffy attitude and hurt feelings when Batman tells him he’s not his greatest enemy.

Taking a cue from The Lego Movie, Lego Batman borrows from pop culture in over-the-top fashion — movie nerds will need a second viewing to spot all the surprise cameos.  Everything is also awesome on the soundtrack: Batman raps his way through Who’s the (Bat)Man (“Who never skips leg day? BATMAN!”), and the happy-go-lucky Friends Are Family has everybody dancing into the credits, leaving even the grimmest vigilante with a huge grin.

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