Lego Batman: Family Matters
Directed by Matt Peters
Written by Jeremy Adams
Starring Troy Baker, Steve Blum, Alyson Stoner, Jason Spisak, Scott Menville, Nolan North, Will Friedle
Produced Rick Morales, Jim Krieg, Michael Uslan, Sam Register, Jason Cosler & Jill Wilfert
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Making its world premiere at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2019, Lego Batman: Family Matters is the latest in all-ages, brick-built, Bat-family entertainment from Warner Bros. This time, the filmmakers decide to do a spin on the fan-favorite “Under the Red Hood” storyline for a younger audience. And for the most part, writer Jeremy Adams pulls it off. It’s easy to make any Batman story one about family when you’re able to bring in so much of Batman’s supporting cast and that’s where Adams finds a lot of the heart in this story. Unfortunately, he’s not able to maintain that center and director Matt Peters isn’t able to rein in the bloated cast of villains or leaden gags.
On a positive note, the voice cast is solid all around. Troy Baker’s heightened Adam West-esque Batman as well as the back and forth between Will Friedle’s Nightwing and Alyson Stoner’s Batgirl are highlights. There are plenty of voice acting stalwarts up and down the cast list including Tom Kenny, Nolan North, Scott Menville, Tara Strong, Josh Keaton and more. That’s the real strength of the film. This group is able to sell the goofier moments while still staying true to their characters. Sure, these are outsized, sillier versions of a dark corner of the DC Universe but they’re still recognizable and that’s what’s important.
The problem is in the plotting and pacing. There’s the checklist-y quality to this film (and often many lesser children’s films) that doesn’t allow for much in the way of suspension of disbelief. Of course, a film that’s catering to a younger audience than the one intended for “Under the Red Hood” is going to lack some of the overarching context and and more complex emotional beats of the original story but it’s so straightforward that even the kids it’s intended for could probably see the twist coming. And when you can already see how the story is meant to play out, the film feels like it drags for long stretches of time. The jokes just don’t hit as hard and the action sequences feel more perfunctory than anything else. Once the Red Hood mystery is solved, the film limps through its conclusion with Brother Eye and the villains who pop up throughout the movie are little more than cannon fodder for the heroes.
It’s tough to be too harsh on a film like this, though. For all intents and purposes, it achieved its goal – at the screening at SDCC, kids in the audience popped for the film in all the right places. From a cynical adult point of view, it’s easy to view this as a 72-minute toy commercial but that’s what all the cartoons we grew up on were, too. It may not trade in some of the heavier pathos of the stories it’s drawing from but at its heart, this is a story about the importance of family and forgiving others for past mistakes. Regardless of your feelings about Lego aesthetic (it works more for some than others), Warner Brothers and Lego have figured out a reliable way to package the classic characters and concepts of the DC Universe with an easily understood and relatable message for kids of all ages.
LEGO Batman: Family Matters will be released on home video August 6.