Though it’s not as consistently or as unrelentingly hilarious as The Lego Movie, Chris McKay’s comic book spin-off is nevertheless a clever and enjoyable spoof of comic book movies in general, and the Dark Knight in particular.
After the morose beat-down that was the ludicrously self-important Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s a much needed breath of fresh air. It’s also far more self-aware, and thus more willing to have some fun at its own expense — and lordy, is there much fun to be had.
Will Arnett returns as the voice of this bent, goofball version of the Caped Crusader. Oddly enough, this is the Batman movie that delves into how much of a moody weirdo loner Bruce Wayne really is. After wallowing in the glory of saving Gotham City for the umpteenth time, he returns home to his cavernous mansion on a private island, where he microwaves a lobster dinner and watches Jerry Maguire by himself. Scarred by the death of his parents, he’s in deep denial about his loneliness and inability to allow anyone to get close to him for fear of losing them again. His closest relationship is arguably the one he has with his arch-nemesis, the Joker (Zack Galifianakis), whom he ditches in one of the best break-up scenes in recent memory. The Joker is so shattered by this that he turns himself, and his fellow super-villains, over to the authorities for incarceration.
That, plus a newly-appointed commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), causes Batman/Wayne to suffer an existential crisis. Getting saddled with an orphan and unwanted sidekick named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) doesn’t help, either.
The gags are far-ranging, riffing on every single one of the Bat-movies, TV series, comic book, and animated versions of the character. It even goes so far as to dig up some obscure, embarrassing, and best-left-forgotten villains such as the Eraser, Crazy Quilt, and (gag) Polka Dot Man. Much like similar broad comedies and the ’60s series, the movie goes for stunt casting that includes Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Billy Dee Williams’ return as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Eddie Izzard as Lord Voldemort (seriously), as well as the likes of Conan O’Brien, Channing Tatum, Hector Elizondo, and even Mariah Carey.
Naturally, most of the jokes are aimed at kids (moreso than The Lego Movie), and they’re delivered rapid-fire Zucker Brothers style, which means they don’t always stick. That, combined with the frenetic editing, means viewers are likely to miss more than few, and frankly it makes the 100-minute running time feel a little self-indulgent.
Still, it works as both a comedy and a superhero action flick, and it has far more depth, creativity, and character development than anything else Warner Bros. and DC have generated in the past few years. Granted, it doesn’t dispel the dread of another Batfleck outing, but it does air some of the funk out of the Batcave. For now, everything is still awesome.