The LEGO Batman Movie

Cast: (voiced by) Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Chris McKay

Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington


It’s interesting how in the space of a single year we saw the release of two films about Batman that could not be more different. One is a mature, gritty thriller in which Batman is portrayed as a brutal, grizzled warrior with a severe attitude and lethal methods. The other is a light-hearted animated family picture where the Caped Crusader is a narcissistic jerk who secretly just wants a family. What really surprised me when I saw both was how much better the ‘kids’ movie understood the character than the ‘grown-up’ film. Batman v. Superman was an altogether more serious film but its characterisation of Batman suffered from an inconsistent tone and an overly complicated plot. LEGO Batman is streamlined and simplified and it has a clear idea about the approach it wants to take with its main character. Following the success of Nolan’s trilogy, there emerged this view that ‘dark’, ‘gritty’, and ‘serious’ equals ‘better’. To me this silly, childish, over-the-top romp is proof that this simply isn’t the case.

The film starts with a typical day in Batman’s life as he beats up bad guys, foils the Joker’s latest plot, and is celebrated by the people of Gotham City as a hero and an all-round cool guy. Afterwards he retreats from the exaltations of his adoring fans and returns to his solitary life in Wayne Manor. There, without any companions save his trusty butler Alfred, Batman spends his nights feasting on lobster and watching rom-coms, all by himself. As Bruce Wayne he attends the city’s gala where the new commissioner Barbara Gordon announces her plans to restructure the police force so that they might serve without Batman’s help. This announcement is interrupted some of Gotham’s most prominent (and also some hilariously obscure) villains, led by the Joker who then immediately surrenders. A suspicious Batman determines that his arch-rival must have some secret plot and sets out to stop him with the help of his accidentally adopted ward Dick Grayson.

As a film in its own right, LEGO Batman is an utterly enjoyable and hilarious movie. It doesn’t quite have the timeless quality of The LEGO Movie but its jokes are a laugh a minute and it can be surprisingly poignant in its quieter moments. As a Batman movie it works both as a parody and a tribute. The Batman canon has a long and colourful history and this film embraces every side of it, including the campier side of West and Schumacher that directors like Nolan and Snyder might have preferred to brush under the rug. It’s easy to forget that Bob Kane’s character started out as a children’s comic book action hero before writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore discovered his darker side and reinvented him for a more adult audience. This film understands intuitively what works and doesn’t work about each incarnation and pokes fun at them all in equal measure. It speaks to the strength of the character that he can be subjected to this level of satire and still be treated with a deep level of sincerity, seriousness and respect, and that’s exactly what the film does in its characterisation of Batman.

The movie’s version of Batman is the same macho, egotistic Master Builder we met in The Lego Movie who believes he’s brilliant at everything and who rejects any kind of human attachment in all of its forms. Not only does he always work alone, he refuses to even acknowledge that he and the Joker are nemeses who share any kind of a special bond. His solitude is challenged both by the unintentional adoption of the wide-eyed and insufferably annoying Dick, whom we all know will later become Robin, and by the plan hatched together by the bitterly rejected Joker, desperate to prove that the unhealthily co-dependent relationship he shares with Batman is real. As Batman recklessly pushes himself further into this pursuit to stop whatever it is the Joker really has planned, it is Alfred who must try and reel him in. It is he who observes that his rejection of attachment is driven by the same fear that compels him to dress like a bat and beat up bad guys, the trauma of losing his family.

There is a lot going in The LEGO Batman Movie with jokes being fired on all fronts and a legion of characters to balance, but the movie knows when to keep things simple. Batman wanting a family is more than enough material for an enjoyable and compelling family adventure and the film uses it well. The movie is dumb and self-aware enough that it never demands to be taken too seriously. It’s a film which understands (in the same way that Deadpool understood) that superhero movies are inherently kind of silly and that’s okay. Unlike Batman v. Superman this movie isn’t ashamed to call itself a superhero movie and isn’t embarrassed of being childish, campy or light-hearted. The movie may have more in common with Adam West’s wacky adventures than it does with Nolan’s epic saga, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of the Batman name or any less of a treat for fans. This is not the Batman movie we need; it is the Batman movie we deserve.

★★★★

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Sausage Party

Cast: (voiced by) Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek

Directors: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan

Writers: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg


In the spirit of Pixar, which has provided emotional portrayals of toys, fish, robots and even emotions, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg posed what seemed to them an innocent question: what if our food had feelings? It did not take them long to realise how messed up that would be, leading to Sausage Party. By venturing into animation, Rogen and Goldberg have found a format that perfectly complements their juvenile and crass sense of humour. The film is able to be coarse and explicit while also being childish. Sausage Party is a movie that appeals to the immature thirteen-year-old in all of us. In a way, it’s a little like South Park if they took out the sharp social commentary and masterfully crafted humour. Sausage Party is vulgar, infantile and dumb and had me laughing in spite of my better judgement many times.

The movie is set in a supermarket called Shopwell’s where every food product dreams of being chosen by one of the gods who will take them to the Great Beyond. Among them is a sausage called Frank and a hot dog bun named Brenda who cannot wait to be chosen together so that they may finally consummate their relationship. However a jar of Honey Mustard who was chosen but then returned by one the gods hysterically declares that everything they’ve been led to believe about the Great Beyond is a lie. After telling Frank to seek out the Firewater, the Honey Mustard commits suicide. His death causes Frank, Brenda, Kareem the lavash, Sammy the bagel and the antagonistic Douche to fall out of their shopping cart and get left behind in the store. Douche is discarded and vows revenge against Frank. Barry, a sausage who had inhabited the same packet as Frank, is taken into the Great Beyond where he learns the secret that drove Honey Mustard to his death. Frank meanwhile leads the others on a quest through the supermarket to discover this terrible truth.

I’ve been dismissive of Rogen’s brand of humour before in such films as Bad Neighbours 2. Personally I’ve found that while these types of films often hold much potential for comedy, a lot of that potential does not get realised because not enough thought or craft goes into their development. The result of this lack of discipline is a bunch of semi-improvised bits and jokes that don’t really go anywhere. This is perhaps why I found Sausage Party to be a more humorously fulfilling experience, because animation is not a format that really lends itself to ad-libbed gags and spontaneous riffing (at least not to the extent that Rogan tends to favour). This was a film that demanded tighter scripting and the comedy is more consistent because of it. The animation also enabled the film to play around with some of the possibilities of visual comedy, as in one sequence that pays homage to Saving Private Ryan.

The humour is typically Rogen/Goldberg-esque and has plenty of stoner jokes, sex jokes, and just plain fucked up jokes with a plethora of food puns for good measure. There are countless ideas in this film from the lesbian taco played by Salma Hayek to the intoxicating effects of bath salts to the explosive finale that made me think “only the imagination of Seth Rogen could’ve come up with this”. I did think that the larger story the film was trying to tell about diversity, tolerance and faith was a little too hammered in and felt kind of unwarranted. It tries to do this in a number of ways such as the inclusion of a Jewish bagel and a Muslim lavash who clash over the differing ideologies until they come together in the weirdest, most shocking way imaginable. There are enough laughs to be had in their depiction of this theme (I had a good chuckle at the German beer declaring his intention to kill all the juice), but overall it felt to me like the film was trying to be smarter than it was or needed to be.

Sausage Party is an outrageous, crude, stupid film and is absolutely hilarious. It is a shameless movie that revels in its debauchery, obscenity and immaturity. Those who enjoy bad taste comedy will find much to enjoy in the film’s utterly disturbing concept, its explicitly graphic imagery that cannot be unseen, and its unrelenting, unabashed perversity and depravity. People will be offended by this film, of that I have no doubt. There are some who won’t appreciate the topical references and others who just won’t be able to handle the film’s more decadent aspects. However, as opposed to something like South Park, Sausage Party is by no means a mean-spirited film. It takes its shots but in truth this film is laughing at itself more than it is at anything else. Getting offended by this movie is a bit like being offended by a loudmouth child with a crude imagination; it’s futile. Sausage Party is a silly, childish film for grown-ups and is a lot of fun to watch.

★★★★