Growing inexorably in awesomeness, the Lego movie empire delivers another fantastically funny and highly sophisticated pop culture adventure, though with only a hint of the first film’s existential angst. (Gotham City is said to be built on thin planks over a void that smells of “dirty laundry”. Like a kid’s bedroom, maybe?) The Lego Batman Movie might even rescue DC’s battered reputation and persuade audiences to feel good about Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn and the idea of Batman fighting Superman. In a world made of Lego bricks, Batman – voiced with basso profundo severity by Will Arnett – is a super-successful crime fighter who battles terrible loneliness back at Wayne Manor: superb scenes of poignant emptiness. This film incidentally has the most devastating use of Harry Nilsson’s One (Is the Loneliest Number) since Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is wounded by Batman’s refusal to commit to an exclusive hero-villain combat relationship: Batman hurtfully says that he prefers to “fight around” with Bane, Superman and the like. So Joker devises a wicked plan that forces Batman to swallow his loner pride and ask for crime-fighting help from his stepson Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and new Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). It’s packed with gags and smart allusions. Why can’t non-Lego movies be as funny, exciting and weirdly moving as this?
Peter Bradshaw is the Guardian's film critic