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

Review of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”

The four mutated turtle brothers Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) continue to fight crime in New York City from the shadows. After capturing Shredder (Brian Tee), the boys convinced TV cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to take the credit so the Turtles could remain a secret. Fenwick has let the attention go to his head. April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is keeping an eye on Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), a renowned scientist that April has discovered is going to help break Shredder out of police custody. One of the guards escorting Shredder is Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) who dreams of being a police detective one day. The Foot Clan attacks the convoy and the Turtles try to stop Shredder from escaping but Dr. Baxter has an alien teleportation device and whisks the criminal away. A couple of thugs calling themselves Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly) also escape by conventional means. Jones, embarrassed by the criminals escape, vows to catch them and prove his worth to Police Chief Rebecca Vincent. Shredder’s teleportation is intercepted by a creature from another dimension. Kraang (voiced by Brad Garrett) is a brain that lives in the midsection of a robot body. It seems Dr. Stockman’s teleportation device belongs to Kraang and is part of a trans-dimensional portal generator. Kraang makes a deal with Shredder: Find the other two pieces of the portal generator that are hidden on Earth and Kraang can bring a massive weapon called the technodrome to facilitate his and Shredder’s taking over the Earth. Shredder agrees and Kraang sends him back with a mutagenic chemical so Shredder can create soldiers that can defeat the Turtles. He recruits Bebop and Rocksteady and the chemical turns them into massive creatures that look like a warthog and a rhinoceros.

The plot synopsis (and I left out plenty) sounds ridiculous and it isn’t much better watching the whole story on screen. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is a silly mixture of CGI mayhem, poorly constructed story and enough mindless technobabble to try the patience of even the most forgiving sci-fi fan. In other words, it’s your typical Michael Bay movie.

Bay didn’t direct “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” but the producer’s bombastic stamp is all over the film. From the strange Day of the Dead-looking Halloween parade (is there such a thing in New York) to the frenetic action scenes that often are difficult to follow, director Dave Green, directing his second feature after “Earth to Echo,” apparently studied Bay’s style and decided to emulate it. While the film has a great deal of energy, thanks largely to the CGI characters and a brilliantly snarky Will Arnett, it doesn’t have much direction, jumping from scene to scene and location to location at a pace that can leave the audience dizzy.

The more complex action scenes also leave a lot to be desired as the more CGI elements there are on the screen, the more difficult it is to clearly see what’s going on and make out any detail. Much like the “Transformers” series of films, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is far easier to watch when the action is less crowded. That is most obvious in the final battle at the film’s much too long in coming end. As more and more bits and pieces are added, the Turtles and Kraang become less and less distinct.

These films are also not exactly showcases of great acting. From the wooden Megan Fox to the hyperactive Stephen Amell, none of the human characters are given much of anything to do that could make them stand out against the computer generated heroes and villains. If anyone gets the short end of the script stick it is Laura Linney in a role that appears to have been written by someone who just liked being mean to people for no good reason. Linney’s Rebecca Vincent is a ballbuster of the highest order. She runs roughshod over anyone and everyone for what seems like the hell of it. Perhaps this is some covert way to showing us how a woman in a traditionally male job has to be twice as tough and twice as good to be respected. Considering the rest of the film, I doubt the script would get that deep. This seems like a role that is supposed to straddle the line of good guy and bad guy but comes off as just plain bad.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. There are various weapons used throughout the film. Guns are fired but no one is shown getting shot. The Turtles fire manhole covers from a converted garbage truck in their first battle with the Foot Clan striking several bad guys who were probably very seriously injured or killed but that isn’t shown. Police cars are blown up. Two CGI characters are locked in a storage container and blown up with a hand grenade but they apparently survive largely unharmed. Foul language is widely scattered and very mild.

Out of curiosity, I looked back at my 2014 review of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and had many of the same problems with that film as I have with this one. From the jumpy editing and muddy action to the two-dimensional human characters, it all seemed strangely familiar. With two similar films having two different directors, it almost makes me think Michael Bay may have more to do with these films than we know. Perhaps a hint was dropped about this when a cosplay Bumblebee showed up in the Halloween parade scene.

While this new film shares many weaknesses with the first movie, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” does have some amazing CGI characters that interact with the real actors and the environment in a believable way. Hard core TMNT fans may find plenty to love in this movie but about the only thing I can find to praise is the animation. Otherwise, this movie is like a getting a pizza delivered cold with the wrong toppings…a disappointment.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” gets two stars out of five.

This week, there are two “2’s” and the big screen debut of a MMORPG. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

The Conjuring 2—

Now You See Me 2—


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