First off, I apologize for the number of colons in that title. That’s literally the name of the movie, and putting “Review Brew” in front of it is a requirement. I’m sure there’s a proctology joke in here somewhere, but let’s get on with the movie.
In a time where DC’s comics are getting, shall we say, a mixed reception, it’s remarkable how DC/Warner’s direct-to-video is doing a pretty decent job taking existing material and adapting it into something that makes you remember why you enjoy these characters. This latest offering is a little unorthodox compared to, say, Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Honestly, it’s downright silly: it’s little plastic versions of the DC Universe, where the villains have tryouts for their new evil team through a reality-show style obstacle course. But don’t mistake “silly” for “bad.” It captures what you’ve always loved about the DC heroes without the baggage of reboot after reboot. Furthermore, this film has a solid plot that carefully balances humor with drama, and there’s enough humor here to delight both kids and adults.
In this little Lego universe, the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and newcomer Cyborg) are a mostly effective team, cleaning up villain after villain with ease. Inspired by the effectiveness of their teamwork, Lex Luthor and a few allies decide to form their own team to counteract the League’s success. After having their aforementioned game-show style tryouts, the Lego version of the Legion of Doom is formed with a sinister plan to frame the Justice League for crimes they didn’t commit and seize control in their absence.
Central to the plot is your typical “newcomer needs to prove himself” element: young member Cyborg (who is, yes, yes, YES, voiced by Teen Titans Go! veteran Khary Payton) finds he’s not quite fitting into the team. His skills don’t quite match those of the League, and he’s lacking the confidence to find his place on the team. When Cyborg notices that things aren’t quite right around the Hall of Justice, can he overcome his inadequacies and prevent the League from falling into a trap?
Well, of course he can. Not to get spoileriffic, but it’s a Lego movie. Adults will realize that this story is very low-threat: villains aren’t going to win for very long in a plastic brick cartoon. Kids won’t see it that way, of course. The tension in this story is real, and kids will probably want to know how the League is going to get out of this one (while still laughing at the brick-related antics throughout the film).
Even better, this film can make a good bonding experience for the household where one of the parents is a veteran comic reader and the kids are just getting into the hobby. For the adults, this film is Easter-egg heavy with puns that only us longtime fans will get. There’s puns aplenty when Superman and Wonder Woman upgrade their costumes to 2011-era fashion (“Superman, your underwear is now on the inside!”) and when the team investigates the “new” base that replaced Area 51. (This last pun is delivered with the subtlety of a jackhammer–you’ll know it when you hear it.) Viewing this, I had lots of opportunities to educate my daughter on the old Super Friends Legion of Doom, DC’s 2011 reboot, and various other things that caught my eye.
Parents should note that this movie is neither in the same style nor continuity as The Lego Movie. Yes, Batman and the League are in both, and both get very brick-punny (they share similar jokes about Lego people not having real hands), but the two movies use entirely different plotlines and in-universe rules. Without spoiling the plot for the three of you who still haven’t seen The Lego Movie, let’s just say that 2014’s blockbuster operated under a very specific premise, while Attack of the Legion of Doom! takes itself much more seriously (to the extent that a plastic brick movie can). Also notable is that the animation styles are very different. The Lego Movie used CGI to make an entirely brick-built world powered by faux-stop motion, while this movie is much more traditional CGI. It still looks good, but not to the astonishing levels done in The Lego Movie. Lastly, while The Lego Movie used an all-star cast (Will Arnett as Batman and Colbie Smulders as Wonder Woman), Attack of the Legion of Doom! relies on veteran cartoon voice actors (Troy Baker, Nolan North, Josh Keaton, and others). This is still a great product–just not at stratospheric Lego Movie levels.
I have only two gripes with this otherwise fine film. One, this story’s continuity is fairly loose with respect to the previous Lego-DC movies: Lego Batman: The Movie; Lego Batman Be-Leaguered; and Lego Justice League vs. Bizarro League. Kids may not care, but if you’ve seen the prior films, then you’ll be surprised when a character makes his “first” appearance even though he previously appeared as an established Leaguer. Similarly, Attack of the Legion of Doom‘s “teaser” ending would have been fine if it hadn’t already been used in another movie. I mean, it’s basically the exact same ending, and you’ll find yourself wondering if the character who appears in both is ever actually going to get to Earth. Kids might not notice this continuity error, but it bugged me.
Second, one of the film’s best casting decisions killed me all the same. The Warner folks made the brilliant decision to cast Mark Hamill as both the Trickster and Sinestro, and does he ever deliver. (I guess this is now his third time in the Trickster role.) But seriously, in a movie with Mark Hamill on voice chores and a cameo by the Joker, we couldn’t get Hamill to play the Joker one more time?! (Oh, and I’m likewise disappointed that they couldn’t get Clancy Brown to play Lex Luthor again, particularly when he did reprise the part in 2013’s Lego Batman: The Movie). It seems like when Hamill swore he was done with the Joker back in 2011, he meant it. Still, there’s at least one Joker/Trickster/Hamill comment that will make you smile…even if it’ll leave you wishing for what could have been.
Rating: Five Bricks Out of Five