Review of “The LEGO Batman Movie”

The ongoing battle between Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) and the Joker (voiced by Zack Galifianakis) continues as the Clown Prince of Crime plans on detonating a giant bomb causing Gotham City to collapse into the caverns below. During the epic battle that pits Batman against his entire rogue’s gallery, the Caped Crusader tells Joker he isn’t his biggest enemy. This breaks Joker’s heart. Batman defuses the bomb and easily defeats all his enemies’ singlehandedly but they also all get away. Meanwhile, in his guise as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, Batman attends the retirement party of Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (voiced by Hector Elizondo) and is immediately struck by the beauty of his replacement, Gordon’s daughter Barbara (voiced by Rosario Dawson). He is so attracted to her he doesn’t realize he agrees to adopt an orphan named Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera). Joker and all the villains attack the party but also all surrender and are locked up in Arkham Asylum. It’s all part of a diabolical plan to force the Dark Knight to admit the Joker is his greatest enemy.

Anyone that has been a fan of Batman, especially the movie incarnations of the hero, will find plenty to love in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” The filmmakers have taken great care to dive deep into Batman lore and make numerous references to the versions of the Dark Knight over the decades. It is both a loving tribute and an at times vicious send up of the World’s Greatest Detective. It also is often very funny with more jokes than you can keep up with for three quarters of the film.

The voice work “The LEGO Batman Movie” is terrific. Maintaining that low gravelly voice for long recording sessions couldn’t have been easy for Will Arnett. He manages to infuse a great deal of emotion in a voice that could have become rather monotone after a while. Much of that emotion and attitude can be credited to the script from Seth Grahame-Smith and Chris McKenna. Batman is a character that could easily come off as far too dour to ever be as funny as he is in this film. Grahame-Smith and McKenna use the darkness and anger to some degree but play up the character’s ego and his self-aggrandizement for much of the humor early on.

Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes (as loyal butler and surrogate father Alfred Pennyworth) all are given bits of fun and silliness to let their characters shine. While the rest of the massive voice cast is used mostly for seasoning, all the characters are given a chance to make an impact often with jokes that could easily get lost in the avalanche of dialog in the often crowded scenes.

My only major problem with the film is the last quarter as all the heroes prepare to face the villains for the final time. The jokes slow down to a crawl as the battles between Batman and the villains start to become repetitive. While the story is trying to show how Batman needs the help of his friends and family and how they are willing to take the risk of fighting some of cinema’s worst bad guys, Batman does the most predictable thing for the most predictable reason. It feels mostly like the writers spent all their energy and imagination on the earlier sections of the film and didn’t have anything left in the tank to carry it through the end. Since this could be considered a kid’s movie maybe they never planned for it to have a story that would appeal to adults. That seems unlikely as there are many jokes early on that will probably go over the heads of most children. Either way, “The LEGO Batman Movie” is in some ways like a marathon runner that just can quite make to the finish line as strong as he would like.

“The LEGO Batman Movie” is rated PG for rude humor and some action. The rude humor is probably in reference to the use of the words “butt” and “fart.” There are numerous action scenes with two characters falling from a plane and out of a building as it is being destroyed around them. There are also fights but all involve characters formed from LEGO. Aside from the earlier words mentioned there is no foul language.

“The LEGO Batman Movie” is quite the roller coaster ride for most of its 104 minutes; but maybe it should have been closer to 90 minutes as the final act feels repetitive and a bit wooden with a significant reduction in jokes and the seemingly required kid’s movie message hammered down the audience’s throats. It’s not quite a home run but is certainly a solid triple.

“The LEGO Batman Movie” gets four stars out of five.

This week features psychological horror, high school hijinks and monsters in feudal China. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

A Cure for Wellness—

Fist Fight—

The Great Wall—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Sausage Party”

In the Shopwell supermarket, the food is fresh…and alive. While the shoppers cannot see the smiling faces of the meats, produce, canned goods and other items, they are sentient creatures that have hopes and dreams for their future. The shoppers in the supermarket are considered gods by the food and being purchased means going to heaven where the gods will love and take care of the food for eternity. One of a 10 pack of sausages, Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) is in love with a bun stocked next to him in a Fourth of July sale display. Brenda (voiced by Kristen Wiig) and Frank believe they are meant to be together in heaven where they can finally have sex. A bottle of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride) is purchased but returned to the store and tells the other foods that they’ve been told a lie all their lives. The gods don’t love and take care of them instead they consume them. When honey mustard is about to be purchased again by shopper Camille Toh (voiced by Lauren Miller), along with Frank and his fellow sausages and Brenda and the rest of the buns in her pack, he decides to kill himself by jumping out of the cart. Frank tries to hold on to him and nearly falls out himself. Brenda grabs Frank in an attempt to save her love. The cart is involved in a mishap and some items tumble out including Sammy Bagel, Jr. (voiced by Edward Norton), Lavash (voiced by David Krumholtz) and Douche (voiced by Nick Kroll) among others. Furious that he isn’t getting to go to heaven with the god that chose him, Douche vows revenge on Frank and Brenda. Meanwhile, Frank, Brenda, Bagel and Lavash try to get back to their respective aisles before the store opens again the next morning while avoiding the Dark God Darren the store manager (Paul Rudd) and being thrown in the dumpster. Along the way, Frank begins to question everything they believe about the gods based on what honey mustard said and starts a quest to find the truth.

“Sausage Party” is a very silly, filthy, raunchy and vulgar movie; but it uses all the smut to hide a deeper layer that questions blind belief, racial stereotypes and sexual classifications. It is on its surface a juvenile adult comedy. Given a bit more thought, it is an intelligent challenge to the preconceived notions many of us live by without a second thought. It is a film that will anger many people and could possibly be the target of misguided boycott attempts. Despite it being animated, “Sausage Party” might be one of the more subversive films I’ve ever seen.

While “Sausage Party” works on levels deeper than what is on the surface, that surface has to be funny to get the message across. Writers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir have packed their screenplay with plenty of jokes along with visual humor to coax the audience into taking the journey into deeper territory. There are food puns aplenty in the script along with a fair amount of drug humor (which turns out to be very important to the story later on). Dirty jokes run the gamut from mild comments about filling buns with sausages to more direct and vulgar remarks about the size of various types of produce and where they could and couldn’t fit. It is not a film for the easily embarrassed or those that consider themselves to be prudish.

The laughter eases what could be for some a painful trip into realms that give many people comfort. Is there a God? What happens after this life? Why are my beliefs any more correct than those of another person? Why should I care what happens to people that are gay, straight, trans, white, black, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or any other sexual identity, ethnicity or religion? These questions have been asked for centuries and continue to cause anger and division amongst us to this day. The film asks the simple question of why it matters to any of us what someone else believes. How does what someone thinks or who someone loves or what someone worships adversely affect anyone else? Why should we hate or try to change people simply because they are different? Maybe this is considered a hippie or humanist way to think and ignores the teachings of the Bible or the Koran or the Torah or any other religious text. But consider this: It’s ok to not share someone’s belief system. Live your life and don’t feel like you are the world’s moral center, responsible for the actions of others. That, in essence, is the story of “Sausage Party.”

“Sausage Party” is rated R for pervasive language, drug use and strong crude sexual content. The crude sexual content ramps up near the end of the film with an all-out food orgy. There are plenty of sexual jokes made throughout the film. Drug use ranges from smoking marijuana out of a kazoo to bath salts. Foul language is common from about the first sentence of dialog all the way through the movie. There are also incidents of violence against humans and food including a beheading.

Seeing “Sausage Party” with your brain turned off and just going in for the laughs is perfectly alright. It is very funny and there are plenty of points where you likely will laugh out loud. There are also moments where the deeper meaning of the film will shine through and you may actually have a serious thought. Don’t let that dampen your fun with the film; just know there’s more going on under the surface.

“Sausage Party” gets five stars.

This week theatres will be filled with an historical remake, an animated fairy tale and a couple of gun runners. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Ben Hur—

Kubo and the Two Strings—

War Dogs—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.