The Lego Batman Movie 4/5
The Founder 4/5
Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk 3/5
It’s been a long time coming, but The Lego Batman Movie (G) finally says what we’ve been thinking all along — that Gotham City needs an ethical, accountable police force far more than it needs a billionaire vigilante in cosplay.
Banished to the sidelines by Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) when the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) assembles an army of villains, Batman (Will Arnett) is forced to come to terms with the fact that he’s not very good at his job, and finally faces his worst fear, that of becoming part of a family again.
Directed by Chris McKay, The Lego Batman Movie has its cake and devours it: it’s a full-blooded superhero story which spends its entirety poking fun at Batman in particular and the superhero genre in general.
The gags arrive at a rate of roughly one every 15 seconds, many of them directed at Batman’s need to ‘overcompensate’, as Batman, Commissioner Gordon (aka Batgirl), Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and Robin (Michael Cera) take on the most villainous bunch ever assembled on film, a motley crew that includes King Kong, Sauron, Lord Voldemort and the Daleks.
The gravel-voiced Will Arnett is perfectly cast as the neurotic vigilante, and Michael Cera is delightfully naïve as the unwittingly camp Boy Wonder whom Batman accidentally adopts.
A very clever script gives the kids plenty to laugh at in terms of slapstick and Lego jokes, while older viewers are catered for in the deconstruction of Batman’s ego and a slew of cinematic in-jokes.
It may not have the original Lego Movie’s wide-eyed innocence, but The Lego Batman Movie is likely to prove one of the funniest movies of the year.
Opening in 1954, The Founder (12A) stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, a salesman who is struggling to sell milkshake machines when he stumbles across a thriving fast-food restaurant in California.
Established by brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch), the restaurant operates according to a radical new ‘speedy system’, creating a wildly successful product Kroc believes is a slam-dunk for franchise.
Written by Robert Siegel and directed by John Lee Hancock, The Founder is a gripping character study as the rapacious Kroc grows increasingly frustrated with the conservative McDonald brothers, who constantly thwart Kroc’s ambitious plans to develop the McDonald’s blueprint into a ‘new American church’.
The irony of the title, of course, is that Ray Kroc was not the founder of franchise behemoth which reimagined the standardisation of food, but a ruthless pursuer of the American Dream, and the makers invite us to contrast the amorality that drives Kroc’s success with the homespun idealism of the McDonald brothers who are left behind in the scramble for the fortune to be mined beneath those golden arches.
Michael Keaton is in superb form as Kroc, a charismatic go-getter with a maniacal eye for detail who is as brilliant a businessman and strategist as he is repellent a husband and friend, and he gets strong support from Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the brothers bewitched by the magnetic Kroc and devastated by the cruel realities of naked capitalism.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (15A) begins in 2004, with Bravo Company on furlough from the war in Iraq and touring the country to boost morale back home, with decorated hero Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) the star of the show.
Scheduled to ‘perform’ alongside Destiny’s Child at half-time in a football match, the story goes behind the glitz and glamour of the occasion to explore the complexities of explaining the harsh reality of warfare to an audience that simply doesn’t care to hear the truth.
Adapted by Jean-Christophe Castelli from Ben Fountain’s novel of the same name, and directed by Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk is spectacularly good at satirising the perception of war as a form of showbiz, as the young men of Bravo Company are trotted out in a series of ‘dog-and-pony shows’ to the dutiful cheers of half-interested audiences (the half-time set-piece in which Billy and his comrades march around on stage behind Destiny’s Child is genuinely obscene).
Joe Alwyn debuts with a terrific performance as the conflicted Billy Lynn, a young man smart enough to be terrified of war but who is nevertheless drawn to the army’s camaraderie and the sense of belonging and duty espoused by Shroom (Vin Diesel).
Billy’s struggle with PTSD and his flashbacks to the moment when he became a reluctant hero give us a vivid insight into his predicament, although the final act is surprisingly anti-climactic given Ang Lee’s meticulous set-up.
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