'Lego Batman' is fun and full of surprises

Keaton was ideal as Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Why do you think people are responding so well to this version of Batman? Warner Animation and DC Entertainment's family film "Lego Batman Movie", meanwhile, saw $2.2 million in Thursday previews, while "John Wick: Chapter 2" also opened to a solid $2.2 million for Lionsgate.

The gloomy billionaire is a go-it-alone vigilante who merely wants to save Gotham City on occasion, then retire to his Batcave to watch chick flicks and write melancholic metal rap to relieve his angst. Batman in his loveable Lego guise (gruffly voiced by Will Arnet) rises to the call when Gotham is threatened by The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and possibly the most terrifying all-star group of baddies and monsters ever assembled.

The story, not that the details of it matter all that much, revolves around Batman/Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) coming to grips with his epic sense of loneliness and loss, rattling around the Bat Cave all day with only his manservant Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and screenings of "Jerry Maguire" in his empty home theater for company. As seen in most of the previews, the main turmoil between Joker and Batman is the latter's inability to acknowledge their mutual hate for one another, insisting that the Joker is not the only thorn in his side.

Batman is essentially a rock star deity whom everyone in Gotham assumes is happy. We miked up a room and got on our feet and worked on these scenes and had an idea of where we wanted to go. Rather than being distracted by say, Arnett's iconic time spent on Arrested Development brought to mind by his cadence, we're instead treated to a personification of the Lego characters by their voice over counterpart.

You could argue that the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to characters makes a mess of things, but that is actually one of the things that makes "Lego Batman" feel so genuine.

More of a Batman movie than a Lego movie, "Lego Batman" takes aim at just about everything in the Batman canon. This crew-the helmer and five (!) scripters-isn't even well-versed in the film world, but earned their chops working in television: Director Chris McKay is best known for Adult Swim's Robot Chicken while the writers bear credits such as Crank Yankers, Community, and American Dad. Amusing stuff, but mostly flying over the heads of kids in the audience.

Fans of the CW's Supergirl might recognize the villains' secret weapon in this installment, as none other than the Martian Manhunter shows up on the wrong side of things, helping out the newly formed bad guy counterpart to the Justice League. Voice work is an underrated craft, and Arnett's work here is some of the best I've heard. I pitched the studio that I wanted to do Jerry Maguire as directed by Michael Mann with a lot of jokes in it and they kinda let me get away with it. You get like Chase Meridian or Vicky Vale and they kind of come in and out of each movie and I wanted someone who's like no, she's really cool and a badass. If the film plays exactly like THE LEGO Movie, we're looking at a boffo $60 million debut weekend.

  • Arturo Norris