(CNN)"The Lego Batman Movie" is OK, but more than its wildly successful predecessor, well short of awesome. Beginning and finishing with considerable cleverness and energy, the project sags in the middle, as sustaining such a high level of goofiness is a building job this Dark Knight can't fully master.
'Lego Batman Movie' doesn't quite hold together
The Batman bits were among the most inspired in "The Lego Movie," which explains this attempt to cash in with an equally cheeky send-up of all things related to the Caped Crusader.
The knowing references, however, grow flat and repetitive, leaving behind a movie that, as snapped together, plays like less than the sum of its parts. In essence, it's a terrific half-hour parody stretched to a 100-plus minutes.
That's not to say that "Lego Batman" -- directed by Chris McKay, the animation supervisor on the original, from a script credited to a small army of writers -- isn't worth seeing. It's just that savoring the best parts on DVD seems preferable to wading through the movie for them in a theater.
Moreover, the way-inside Batman jokes -- including a litany of gags about earlier movies, such as a character referencing "that time with the parade and the Prince music" -- will fly over the heads of kids, while the visual barrage risks becoming tedious for adults, or at least, those who aren't extremely well versed in DC Comics minutia.
Will Arnett once again provides the growling voice of Batman, a vigilante loner who insists he needs no one -- heaping scorn on everybody from arch-foe the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) to sidekick Robin (Michael Cera), who he inadvertently adopts.
That sets up the underlying spine of the plot, which is that Batman must open up emotionally to those around him, including loyal butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) in order to thwart his enemies.
Along the way, there are jokes regarding just about every Bat-thing imaginable, from the opening titles to the silly '60s TV show to raised eyebrows about his relationship with his "ward," Dick. There are also so many cameos by assorted villains and heroes -- including several incongruous ones from the Warner Bros. library -- it's easy to lose count.
"Lego Batman" strives for the madcap tone of an animated Mel Brooks or Zucker brothers movie. The challenge is that when comic material comes that fast and furious -- and needs to stay relatively clean, barring the occasional foray into bathroom humor -- the misfires tend to mount, making the frenetic pacing feel more enervating than inspired.
One recurring bit involves Batman having a chip on his shoulder about Superman (again voiced by Channing Tatum, one of the myriad celebrity voices), before coming to grips with the fact that he can't totally go it alone.
As in the comics, Batman's evolution on screen through the years has made the character ripe for this sort of exercise. In hindsight, though, keeping a feature-length spoof singularly devoted to him aloft -- as it careens from one frantic moment to the next -- looks like a job for Superman.
"The Lego Batman Movie" opens in the U.S. on February 10. It's rated PG.