Strange things happen when video game producers direct movies. Especially those involving Lego. To explain, it’s not that writer/director Jon Burton didn’t try his darndest to get LEGO Batman: The Movie right. Animation is quite good, likewise packs a stellar cast of voice actors from the finest in sci-fi and superhero animation. A literal all star team comprises the men and women behind the blocks, with Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Brian Bloom, Cam Clarke, Clancy Brown and Rob Paulsen at their usual best. It’s still a bit odd having all of this dialog…about, well, dialog…in that LEGO movies and games only recently included actual voices in them.
Related, Burton is certainly no slouch himself. His ‘LEGO Star Wars: the Video Game’ is everything that’s right with Travellers Tales’ take on the franchise, a clever homage that captures the spirit of the building sets, and does so with humor and panache. Hit the jump for more.
Despite such capable ingredients, LEGO Batman: The Movie serves a fairly cold and wanting dish. Voice actors – while good – are bogged down by terrible dialog that isn’t smart enough for adults or easily accessible for the young’uns. Not helping matters is there’s simply too much going on. The plot is simultaneously over-simplistic and convoluted, involving way too many characters clearly force-fit together. Visual gags – a hallmark of LEGO – are few and far between, and rarely entertaining.
Fans of the DC Superheroes LEGO sets are also apt to be disappointed. Unlike the Star Wars shorts, Batman: The Movie is comprised of a world only partially made of blocks. In exception to characters, vehicles, and some props, the rest of the world is peculiar, artsy and overly computer generated. This combines for uncomfortable 2D-3D interaction, with LEGO pieces interacting with non LEGO ones, in a space that doesn’t seem ripe for a LEGO universe. This becomes obvious upon closer looks, as characters lack trademark LEGO holes in legs and feet. The core charm of LEGO lies in its limitations when representing real spaces. This movie unfortunately falls well short in this area.
Despite these flaws, I truly tried to like LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite. Fully featured and voiced LEGO flicks are rarer than parking spots in Santa Monica, and I laud the effort. Still, I found very little truly engaging about LEGO Batman, endlessly hoping for a cool LEGO-based vehicle, building or joke to liven things up. This unfortunately never really happened…and 70 minutes is a very long time to wait, Also – and for the little ones among us – the array of superheroes and baddies seem stuck in age gap purgatory, devoid of the cuteness and pretend edge of their physical, LEGO counterparts.