I just sat down with audience full of young children and their parents to watch a matinee of The Lego Batman Movie. And I'm pleased to say it hit on so many levels. Both personal and academic.
Academically, because I've been reading "The Caped Crusade" by Glen Weldon about the history of the Batman franchise. I caught every reference in the barrage of inside jokes aimed at the adult nerds sitting in the audience with their kids. With the many homages to the previous incarnations of Batman, the extended Bat-family and assorted Gotham villains, it's clear the writers and artists over at WB did their homework. The Batman and Joker rivalry as romantic relationship was especially hilarious, since it both satirizes the traditional Hollywood romcom while acknowledging their historic symbiotic existence. "One can't exist without the other."
Personally, the writers' interpretation of Batman's perpetual loner status as an avoidant attachment style born of the pain from losing his parents was a nice departure from previous treatments of Batman as just cray cray. The issue Batman has with letting anyone in hit an emotional note for me, as it parallels issues I've experienced in my own relationships. And while these dynamics are quite grown up, at a pivotal point in the plot, even the kids knew the words that Batman needed to, but couldn't bring himself to say. Imagine my delight at hearing an audience full of kids shout to the screen unprompted and in unison, "Say I'm sorry!" Wish a certain someone had been there to hear it. It was quite remarkable.
The Lego Batman Movie is a great animated film that hits all the notes that the Pixar classics set as the new bar for children's films over two decades ago with Toy Story. I laughed, I cried, I learned something about friendship and family, and I nerded out with all the Batman backstory references. It was fast paced, it was edgy and it was very funny. From what I understand, aficionados are very particular about depictions of the Bat, with Batman: The Animated Series being their most approved of on-screen version. With that in mind, The Lego Batman Movie strikes gold. I think Glen Weldon would be proud!
Over and out.