REVIEW: Is ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ OK for small kids? (And are there any scary parts?)
February 10th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Batman saves the world on a regular basis as the hero of Gotham City, but if you look just a little bit closer, you’ll discover that all is not well with our Caped Crusader.
He eats alone. He watches movies alone. And when people want to be his friend, he rejects them.
“I don’t need anyone,” he says.
The happy child who was orphaned at a young age is now a superhero filled with anger and rage, and he has no intention of changing. Well, that is until a young boy—himself an orphan—enters Batman’s life and challenges everything he believes.
It’s all part of The Lego Batman Movie (PG), which opens this weekend, three years after The Lego Movie dominated at the box office and finished as the fifth-highest grossing movie of 2014. The newest Lego movie stars Will Arnett as the voice of Batman, Michael Cera as Robin, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, and Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.
It’s a movie that many American children will want to see, even without the partnership the film has with McDonald’s.
Here’s the good news: Lego Batman is mostly family-friendly. Here’s even better news: It has more solid, practical lessons about life than many adult-oriented films do.
The film opens with Batman saving Gotham City from the Joker, who is shocked when the Dark Knight tells him that he is not Batman’s “No. 1 bad guy.”
“Batman and Joker are not a thing,” Batman says. “You mean nothing to me. No one does.”
A distraught Joker then sets out to prove that he is, indeed, Batman’s top nemesis.
That’s the plot, but we still need to ask: Is Lego Batman OK for kids of any age? And, if so, what can they learn? Let’s take a look.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
Lego Batman has both a tragic and uplifting message about families. As we know, Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, witnessed the murder of his parents as a child. That’s not seen or mentioned in the movie, but we do learn that he was an orphan and we watch him look at pictures of his parents. “Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. I saved the city again today. I wish you could have seen me,” he says to the photo. It’s sad, yes, but we’re given a redemptive moment after Batman accidentally adopts a boy from an orphanage—a boy who always has looked up to Batman. Batman initially wants to “ship” the boy back to the orphanage, but he eventually comes around and embraces him. (The boy becomes Robin.)
But the movie’s primary themes involve Batman’s ego and loneliness. When he’s talking to impressionable kids, he says all the wrong things: “If you want to be like Batman, take care of your abs.” When Gotham City’s new commissioner, Barbara Gordon, proposes that the police and Batman fight crime together, Batman rebuffs the idea: “Batman works alone.” When he’s asked about his greatest fear, he refuses to give an inch: “I’m not afraid of anything.” It is only after he sees that he can’t save the city by himself, and when his new friends are in danger of being killed, that he learns to trust others and allow them to receive some credit. Imagine that: a humble Batman. And a great lesson for children. “Sometimes losing people is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean that you stop letting them in,” he says toward the end.
Batman hugs his new son for the first time, and we hear Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror: “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”
Amidst Batman’s transformation, there is a lesson about coping with tragedy. Batman rejected people out of fear of more pain, but he soon learned that those people—his friends—were what he needed to heal.
Lego Batman includes more plot surprises than I expected. It’s also funny, even for adults (although not as funny as the first Lego Movie).
Lego Batman has no coarse language, although it includes more potty language than I’d prefer. (Butt, 7; oh my gosh, 7; “Ironman sucks,” 2; farts, 1; heck, 1; darn, 1.)
It has no sexuality, but when Batman is told that the kids call his son “Dick” instead of “Richard” he responds, “Children can be so cruel."
The violence is cartoonish and not excessive.
Batman steals a weapon from Superman known as a “phantom zone projector,” and although he’s not arrested, he faces plenty of negative consequences.
Lego Batman has several scenes that would be scary if this were a live action film, but it’s not. Instead, the scenes come across as humorous.
Finally, Batman and the Joker tell each other at the film’s end: “I hate you.”
Scripture tells us that life wasn’t meant to be lived alone. God gave Eve to Adam in the Old Testament (Genesis 2:18), and God established the church in the New Testament as a community to support and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25, James 5:16). As Batman discovered, a self-centered life is a miserable life. That’s a good discussion to have with our kids.
The Verdict: Kid-Friendly?
I took my 8-year-old son to Lego Batman, and I’d probably take my 5-year-old twins to it, also. I’d rather it have fewer “butt” jokes, but the scary scenes aren’t at all scary, and the lessons about selflessness, teamwork, community and friendship are great.
Why is Batman full of anger? Why didn’t Superman and his friends invite Batman to their party? (Should they have done so?) Was it wrong for Batman to steal? Did he “get away with it”? What is it like to be around a self-centered person? What is it like to be around an angry person? How would people characterize you? How should we treat people who are angry or egotistical? What did Batman learn in the end?
Lego Batman is rated PG for rude humor and some action.
Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5.