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Built for fun

Mildly subversive ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ goes for big laughs


If you’re looking for an enjoyable, kid-friendly film for the family, look no further than “The Lego Batman Movie.” The “kid-friendly” part might just be what kills the movie overall, though. Take for example its cutesy, wince-worthy end credits sequence, which panders so hard to youngsters and is filled with corny moments and pop music so sugary sweet you might just vomit. It’s a film that ultimately betrays its goals and shows it doesn’t have the depth, wit or satirical smarts of the film it spun-off from, “The Lego Movie.” “Lego Batman” comes off as a cheap cash-in, an abuse of the goodwill that Lego has fostered from that earlier surprise hit.

That’s not to say that “Lego Batman” doesn’t have its virtues. Hilarious jokes are delivered at breathtaking speed and with such panache that everyone in the theater, young and old, will guffaw at least once. Adults may find the action and pacing a little too speedy, though. It comes at you so fast it’s hard to keep up sometimes. No doubt younger members of the audience will find the film’s zippiness thrilling.

And even though it is merely just an exercise in brand extension and franchise exploitation, the filmmakers do manage to slip in a bit of the subversive spirit that made “The Lego Movie” more than just a silly blockbuster cash cow. That’s the films most surprising virtue. It’s not intent on continuing to sell the image most audiences have of the Caped Crusader, one that’s been slowly solidifying over the past few decades or so. Nowadays, most think of Batman as the ultimate badass: stoic, dark, brooding and hyper-masculine. In a way, he’s become the platonic ideal of manliness, and the cultish fan-boy culture that’s come to surround him is only compounded by the fact that he doesn’t have any super-powers. Thus, by virtue of being “ordinary,” most of his devotees subconsciously feel they too can become Batman. All they need is billions of dollars, years of martial arts training, genius-level intellect and the physical fitness of a Greek god (or, as it’s referred to in the film, “shredded abs”).

And most recent fiction, from Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy to the recent “Batman v. Superman,” aren’t really interested in exploring the fractured psyche that drives Batman to obsessively fight crime. All of this is bad for the culture, since it creates toxic ideals about what a hero is — and especially so for young boys, who are presented with a very narrow view of masculinity.

Believe it or not, “Lego Batman” is the first film to at least attempt to psychoanalyze the Dark Knight and in the process lightly subverts the Batman archetype. From its first frames, the film is intent on showing what a deeply broken, narcissistic and mentally unhealthy man Batman is, turning him into a huge softy and blatantly parodying the dark, gritty and uber-serious image of the hero, an image that’s frankly becoming quite tiresome and is now verging on self-parody. And “Lego Batman” also shows that heroes and good guys aren’t ass-kicking loners, they’re people who know how to work with others and embrace collectivity.

For that reason alone, it might just be worth braving its groan-worthy moments and showing your kids that there’s more than one way to perceive the Batman.


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