Will Arnett has somehow become the greatest Batman of all time by simply using his voice.
"The Lego Batman Movie" not only continues the momentum of the joyfully irreverent "The Lego Movie," but blows out the best part of that film -- Arnett's Batman cameo -- and runs with it for an entire, incredibly funny romp.
Director Chris McKay, who has made a career of stop-motion action figure films with funny voices in "Robot Chicken," wields his exhaustive knowledge of the character's ridiculous past as Batman does his utility belt gadgets.
Arnett's gravelly, delusional delivery is the perfect conduit to deconstruct the Caped Crusader's decades of absurdity. And Michael Cera is his perfect counterpoint, with a giddy optimism that clashes with his mentor's dark obsessiveness.
Nailing a tone established by the likes of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the movie follows Batman's determination to go it alone in a world that's determined to make friends with him.
Robin, Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) and Alfred the butler (Ralph Fiennes) join him to take down the Joker's (Zach Galifianakis) nefarious plan to unleash all sorts of movie villains on Gotham. Sticking with the genre-mashup happiness of "The Lego Movie," the likes of Sauron, Voldemort and King Kong make appearances, just because. It all adds to the anything-goes mayhem that keeps things invigorating.
It's basically a rule that all Batman movies must turn a blind eye to the more ludicrous aspects of the character, such as his impossible access to neverending wealth and technology, energy to live a ridiculously demanding double life -- and especially his tendency to hang out with a tights-wearing teenage boy who dresses in red, yellow and green. Instead of shying away from the absurdity, McKay's film steers into the glorious skid.
"The Lego Batman Movie" would have done its job well enough had it simply succeeded at being funny, which it does with ease and irresistible momentum. But somehow, by using its jokes to subtly set up an emotional core. With each quip and barb, Arnett is subtly setting up the of a wounded loner reluctantly allowing others to penetrate his protective shell.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.