The LEGO Movie was a big studio hit that did well with kids and adults alike, but it also poked real fun at itself: Its LEGO World was one of stultifying conformity, and the fact that everybody ate the same food, did the same jobs and lived in the same spaces warned against the repetitive monotony of a prefab plastic reality. The film was good-natured, but its humor was so self-aware that you got the sense that any joke was possible, that nothing was off-limits -- and its nonstop critique of all the common tropes of blockbuster movies seemed like an arrow aimed directly at its own corporate heart.
LEGO Batman has some of that same spirit, but it never goes far enough. Early on, someone suggests that Batman (Will Arnett) enlist a group of imprisoned villains in the fight against the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), to which he replies, "What am I going to do, get a bunch of bad guys to fight bad guys? That's stupid." Yes, it's the mildest of digs at Suicide Squad, Warner/DC's notoriously loathed superhero hit from last year. But guess what Batman winds up doing late in the film? It all feels so predictable … so conformist. The LEGO Batman Movie is entertaining, but it also sometimes feels less like a spin-off of The LEGO Movie and more like one of its targets.
Still, given that it's a sequel/spin-off built around a mostly throwaway gag, The LEGO Batman Movie is funnier than you might think it has any right to be. But those of us who were expecting something more can't help but feel a twinge of disappointment.