“The LEGO Batman Movie”

Susan Granger’s review of “The LEGO Batman Movie” (Warner Bros.)

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This inventive, animated spin-off of 2014’s “The LEGO Movie” astutely ridicules the Caped Crusader, beginning with the title sequence, since “All important movies start with a black screen.”

In the opening scene, self-centered Batman (Will Arnett) protects Gotham City from a series of desperados, led by the demented Joker (Zach Galifianakis), then regales its citizens about his heroics.

When he’s not crime-fighting, narcissistic Bruce Wayne lives in luxurious isolation with his loyal butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). After microwaving leftover lobster, Wayne watches ‘Jerry Maguire” in his Bat Theater – until he’s joined by eager orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera).

Then Gotham City’s new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) suggests that her department work with the Caped Crusader, rather than just flashing the Bat-signal whenever his vigilante services are required, noting, “We don’t need an unsupervised adult in a Halloween costume karate-chopping poor people.”

So brooding Batman must learn to cooperate with law enforcement and accept Dick’s fervent desire to become his sidekick “Robin” after the Joker recruits a slew of supervillains, like Sauron from “Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong” and the “Wicked Witch of the West” from The Phantom Zone, Superman’s metaphysical space prison.

What makes Chris McKay’s awesome satire work is that many moviegoers are tired of the egotistical Dark Knight – from TV’s ‘60s Adam West to Christian Bale, courtesy of Tim Burton.

Dipping into DC Comics’ universe, a horde of screenwriters (Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Wittington) came up with a multitude of clever gags, cameos and pop culture references, including Superman (Channing Tatum), The Riddler (Conan O’Brien),  Two-Face (Billy Dee Williams) and Bane (Doug Benson).

Plus, there’s Maria Carey as Gotham’s Mayor McCaskill and a nod to Donald Trump’s taxes.

Visually, it’s a delight to see plastic LEGO building-blocks come to life, courtesy of Australia’s Animal Logic, in this family-oriented adventure.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The LEGO Batman Movie” is a silly, subversive 7, energetically played for laughs.

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