David and I went to see The LEGO Batman Movie tonight! This post isn’t going to be a review though (so no need to fear spoilers). Rather, it’s personal reflection on why this was a perfect example of the right movie at the right time for me. Yes, I’m already going to call it – this will be the best D.C. movie of the year, no contest. Heck, I’ll confidently say this was the best D.C. movie since 2008’s The Dark Knight! But that wasn’t what I was thinking about as I watched it nor is that what I’m thinking about now. Rather I just keep thinking, “Wow, I really needed this.”
It has been a heavy few weeks since Inauguration Day. Honestly, I haven’t slept soundly since. Literally every night I’m haunted by nightmares. Some are smaller in scale (fear and pain for those endangered and isolated by the policies being put forward) and some much larger (living in the cold shadow of nuclear winter in a post-apocalyptic landscape after the “hard rain” has fallen). I fear for the direction of the country. I fear for the refugees and immigrants seeking safety and a new home. I fear for our education system under a woman like Betsy DeVos. I fear for the systemically excluded with an Attorney General like Jeff Sessions. I worry about what irreparable harm we may do to our planet if the EPA is handed over to a man like Scott Pruitt. I worry about our troops being committed to a rash war with Iran or North Korea. I worry about the war Russia is already starting. The list of what I’m worried about grows daily. It can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting. So sitting in a theatre and just laughing for two hours was a beautiful (and much needed) gift.
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith and Chris McKenna and directed by Chris McCay, The LEGO Batman Movie is certainly a gift! We catch-up with Batman (Will Arnett) doing his bat-thing and protecting Gotham from the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and his criminal horde. Things get complicated when Joker tries to force Batman to admit that he is, in fact, the Batman’s greatest enemy. You see, LEGO Batman doesn’t do relationships. Batman’s life is further complicated by Alfred’s (Ralph Finnes) insistence that he actually care for the son he forgot he spontaneously adopted – Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) – and the fact that the new Police Commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), seems to think working together is a good idea. All of this seriously threatens Batman’s cool loner chic.
Anyway, the whole film does a magnificent job of taking the tropes we’ve come to expect from superhero movies in general and lampooning them. It does an even better job lampooning the tropes we’ve come to expect from the Batman mythos. You know, I don’t think there was a major area of the Batman’s history that wasn’t referenced at some point, in some way during this movie. It was all so intelligent, so brilliantly executed. Do you know how good this movie was? I wasn’t the loudest person laughing in the theatre. Okay, so I realize the majority of the people reading this have never seen a movie with me. But, as Jeff or Kalie or David will attest, I can be loud when I’m watching a comedy. What can I say? I just love to laugh! And I get into it! So, whenever I’m at a comedy, I kind of make a scene. Listen, I enjoy my comedies! Anyway, I was laughing as hard as I normally do but there were other people laughing as loud and louder. Who doesn’t need that sort of joy right now? I know I do.
I’ve learned intimately, living in troubled times such as these, it is all too easy to get lost in the news. It can so easily consume you. I feel at times like reading the news is a full time job, just trying to wrap my head around one thing when seven more things happen. I don’t know which battle to fight as so many are occurring simultaneously all around me. I’ve marched in all our local demonstrations. I call my representatives daily (whether they pick up or not is another matter *cough Pat Toomey cough*). I read the news all through the day, and for hours at night. But I’ve realized I need to balance my vigilance with giving myself a little time to breathe too. Obviously, I can’t pretend what’s happening isn’t happening or normalize it to the point of acceptance. Too much is at stake. But I can take a night off. Personally, I’ve decided to stop reading the news after 9:00 each night to give myself some time to relax with pleasure reading or writing or maybe even binge-watching some Star Wars: The Clone Wars or something like that before bed. That’s helped. It helps me focus and lets me recharge. Without that, I can be no good to anyone for anything. In that vein, I can certainly give myself a night off to enjoy The LEGO Batman Movie! I’m not exaggerating when I say this movie was a healing experience. I managed to forget about everything as the lights went down and the movie played. Just relaxing and having fun like this was a tonic for the soul.
In times such as these, this sort of cinema becomes even more important. Granted the value of these types of movies is never recognized come award season. There’s no Oscar for Best Comedy or Most Fun at the Movies. But, to state the obvious, laughing is important. What good is life if we never have any fun?! Without enjoyment, without happiness, without human connection all of life becomes dark, dour, and depressing. And in the darkness we certainly can’t sustain ourselves for the long haul.
Incidentally, if we’re only living in the darkness we sort of become Batman. This is something The LEGO Movie presented wonderfully and the theme is expanded brilliantly in The LEGO Batman Movie. This idea that Batman is a cool loner, who avoids human/real emotional connection is used for great comedic fodder in the film but it’s also utilized to explore, with honestly and nuance, the vital importance of family and connections in our lives. I’ve written before that I’m not a big fan of Batman – emotionally stunted, angry loner that he is. But, weirdly, the LEGO Batman authentically owns all the things I find problematic about Batman while exploring them in a way I think would do the regular comic book Batman some good. The story manages to be emotionally rich while also being wildly hilarious. The LEGO Batman Movie is one of those movies I want to see again and again because it’s just FUN.
Fun, to state the obvious again, is important. How are we expected to have anything worthwhile of ourselves to offer the world if we never take any time to have a little fun?! Without allotting time for movies like The LEGO Batman Movie and the joy it brings, we’ll end up with nothing in the tank to offer our family, friends, and loved ones. And we certainly won’t have the energy to fight the good fight as we RESIST the injustice and systemic sin in the world all around us. To be able to challenge the darkness we find in the world we need to be able to fuel our own light.
I know I personally spend a lot of time trying to be as positive as I can. It’s important to me. First, life’s more enjoyable that way and, second, I like to do my part to put as much positivity as I can back out into the world. But positivity and happiness are mindsets that have to be cultivated. Meditation is helpful. Prayer is essential. Taking stock of all that’s beautiful and good in your life on a regular basis is absolutely mandatory too. But so are movies like Dumb and Dumber, Anchorman, National Lampoon’s Vacation, What About Bob?, Guardians of the Galaxy, 21 Jump Street, and now The LEGO Batman Movie.
“Laughter is the best medicine” may be a cliché but clichés are formed from truths often repeated. I’m actually kind of happy that Kalie was still out of town tonight, doing her PhD thing. David and I had a fun bro-night at the movies and it means I have a guaranteed reason to go see this a second time! Yay! The movie certainly warrants it on its own merit because it’s just fantastic. Also, practically, I spent a lot of time missing jokes because I was still laughing from the one that proceeded it. But, more than that, for me The LEGO Batman Movie falls into that wonderful line of movies that are good for my heart and soul. A little joy and a little fun go a loooong way towards sustaining my soul for the Resistance and allowing me to put as much happiness and positivity back into the world as I can.