I cannot rave enough about the LEGO Batman Movie, a film I expected would be a pleasant diversion, not one of the all time best Batman films. Just like The LEGO Movie, this exceeded my expectations by a huge margin.
The story comes at the viewer non-stop, and is packed with in jokes and references, and cameos by a vast amount of DC characters. Right from the start, the Joker (Galifanakis) has brought together a huge crew of Batman villains in his most recent plot against Batman (Arnett). These range from familiar foes, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Bane, and such, all the way down to Condiment King and Zebra Man.
Defeating this vast entourage is not beyond Batman's abilities, but the story takes off after he is done, once he heads home to his vast cave and island mansion. All alone.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film was how emotionally resonant it was for the character. The tale highlights Batman's true weakness, his fear of opening up and getting attached, and plays that out in a variety of ways.
Michael Cera voices young orphan Dick Grayson, who becomes a really enjoyable Robin. But can Batman open up and trust him? Can Batman even acknowledge the importance of Alfred in his life?
While Barbara Gordon succeeds her father as Police Commissioner of Gotham City, she also winds up attracting the attention of Bruce Wayne. Can he open up and actually begin a romance?
But all of these are secondary to the main relationship question. Is the Joker Batman's greatest foe, or not? Does Batman care enough about him to acknowledge their bond of hatred?
I've made this sound maudlin, I'm sure. It's not. It's an incredibly funny movie from start to finish. It also references every live action Batman film, the old tv series, and a lot of obscure elements for the real Bat-fans in the audience. Superman and the Justice League get a great scene, partying down in the Fortress of Solitude.
The film also ventures into metafiction territory, discussing the 78 years that Batman and the Joker have been fighting each other.
This movie is totally suitable for Batman fans, comic book fans, children of all ages, well behaved pets, and random people you grab off the street and force to watch the movie with you.