**1/2 stars (out of four)
A sequel of sorts to 2014’s blockbuster The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie has some laughs but indicates diminishing returns for future films in the series.
Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) is in something of a rut. He keeps defeating bad guys led by the Joker (Zach Galifianakis), but he hasn’t actually imprisoned any of them. New police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) wants to use actual police work to catch the bad guys and a young orphan (Michael Cera) insinuates his way into Bruce Wayne/Batman’s life.
The film employs the same hyperkinetic, self-aware meta humor that the original Lego Movie did. It’s hit and miss, sometimes becoming too cutesy. But some of it is funny. The co-dependency of Batman and the Joker’s relationship scores laughs. The film’s strongest asset is Ralph Fiennes’ voice work as Alfred, the butler. With this coming after Fiennes’ standout work in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hail, Caesar!, he’s becoming one of Hollywood’s finest comic actors.
The Lego Batman Movie isn’t a bad family film. But with The Lego Ninjago Movie scheduled to open in September, it seems like Hollywood is destined to beat a dead horse.