The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
PG because the Joker, as a concept and in brick form, is a terrifying idea. He doesn't really do anything particularly scary in this movie, but I can't help but always remembering that he's a serial killer that poses as someone who is meant to entertain children.
DIRECTOR: Chris McKay
If The LEGO Movie was the Guns 'n Roses of children's movies, The LEGO Batman Movie is the Gwar of children's movies. (Do you understand how happy I was to think of that Gene Shalit level blurb? I tried saying it out loud to my students and I had to spend a good deal of time explaining who Gwar were. They also didn't believe me that they existed. Adolescents with supercomputers at their fingertips didn't believe me that Gwar existed.) The movie is intense. Holy crow, I don't think I've ever seen a movie that never really let up. I'm not really surprised though. The Will Arnett fueled character established a pretty hardcore tone in The LEGO Movie, so it only makes sense that the movie is going to match the tone of the character. Add to the fact that Chris McKay's credits are almost exclusively [adult swim] cartoons and your frenetic feel is bound to drive the movie.
First and foremost, this movie is funny. Amazingly funny. From the studio bumps at the beginning through the last shot, I think I was cracking up so much. It's not surprising with the team involved. It was only until after I saw the movie that I realized that Gob had adopted George Michael and decided to fight crime. Funny people making funny things and it working? THAT'S MY FAVORITE! Maybe comedies are harder to remember the moment to moment, but I genuinely want to watch this movie again. I know the plot pretty well and I remember laughing throughout, but I only really remember one or two lines. As I'm writing this, I realize how damning this sounds, but I think it's because almost every joke hits on the same level. The jokes are great and, gee whiz!, there are some deep DC cuts. This movie maybe pulls off the impossible of making it completely accessible for non-nerds, but really pulls some of the most amazing references out of nowhere. Do you know how hard it was to not lean over and constantly explain references? That's every comic dork's curse! I got so much and I wanted to tell it to the world! But the movie never really got alienating for my family. They got it. The joke was accessible and weird simultaneously. That's a level of genius that I can't really explain.
I read a review on io9 for this movie that I originally wanted to poo-poo, but they kind of had a point. It was pretty negative and I refused to listen. The jist of the movie is that the movie is too funny. I thought, "Impossible!" How can that be a detriment to the movie. While I still think the movie is pretty great, I get where they get that criticism. The movie is a non-stop joke. There's a vulnerable movie underneath that. If I summarized the plot for you, it might actually be quite the touching movie. But like The Jerk, the emotion gets sacrificed upon the altar of having fun. It's like hanging out with your buddies and you have to be the punk who says, "Okay, guys, we've had enough fun. Let's get serious." Yeah, there are serious parts in the movie, but those moments are so sandwiched by joking that we really miss the personal connection to Batman. (Yup, I hear how goofy that sentence comes across now.) The weird thing is that there is a cool insight into how Batman as a character is somewhat flawed. The theme is a powerful one and the criticism has validity, but the movie kind of only uses that story as a foundation. I wonder if this movie had the most aggressive punch up team in the history of cinema because it felt like the first draft of the movie might have been really touching.
But all this is moot. The movie is a children's movie that is super entertaining for adults. Man, I'd hate to be from my parents' generation where kids' movies were only for kids and that adults had to drill a hole their heads just to tolerate another viewing of the movie. The movie is super fun, even though it is really intense. If I had to rank them, and I don't, I would say that The LEGO Movie is a better movie, but I might want to watch The LEGO Batman Movie on repeat. Because that's going to happen. I know my kids. They're going to want to watch this over and over and I'm kind of okay with that. (Okay, I'm not great with that because they should be minimizing their screen time. But when there IS screen time...)
I feel like a hypocrite gushing over this movie so much though. I don't like product placement. One of my loud-and-proud favorite movies is Superman: The Movie. I grew up with that movie and I still revisit it on a regular basis because I think it is great. One of the moments that always pulls me out of the film is what I refer to as the Cheerios shot. Martha Kent is looking out at Clark in the middle of a field before he leaves home and the light is only illuminating the box of Cheerios. The Cheerios box rotates to stay in profile as the camera changes angles. Other movies have gotten worse. I know that one of my students adores You've Got Mail. I always had a problem with that movie not because of how the film is made, but because the movie is one giant advertisement for America Online. (I have free hours if anyone needs any. You just need a floppy disc drive.) Cast Away is another offender. I couldn't get into the movie when the majority of boxes washed up on the shore with the FedEx logo blazing on top. But for some reason, I'm forgiving of the LEGO movies. Heck, I'm going as far as to capitalize all the letters in "LEGO." I actually went back and changed the title when the IMDB page showed that it was meant to be capitalized. The purpose of making these movies is to sell LEGOs. Why? Why do I approve of these movies? I live in a world where I'm lauding the exploits of a glorified toy commercial. I now feel such shame.
But not enough shame to rewrite this review nor hide my actual opinion. Bee-tee-dubs, is this my first 2017 film? Nice.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.