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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Gotham City Breakout (Blu-ray)
LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Gotham City Breakout (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // July 12, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted August 27, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Film:

DC's cinematic universe is currently in the middle of a, uh, dark period. Debates have come up over Superman's willingness to kill because of happenings in Man of Steel, an extended cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earned an R-rating, and the Suicide Squad -- the team of villains whose heads are blown up if they act out of line -- recently got their own standalone movie. This kind of violence and gloom aren't new to movie adaptations of DC's characters, especially Batman, of course, but there's a noticeable difference in the tone and intent this time around, and it's even less welcoming for the young, impressionable audience members -- and their parents -- out there. With this younger audience in mind, DC Animation have been creating deliberately playful and humorous alternatives to their prime universe's gloominess that involve many of the same characters, including a series of LEGO-themed stories similar to the line of videogames and the awesomeness of The LEGO Movie. Justice League: Gotham City Breakout is the latest of these goofy adventures, yet this one's too over-the-top to enjoy beyond its absurd twists on the Batman universe.

To be perfectly honest, "Mr. Wayne's Holiday" would've worked equally as well, if not more so, as the title for this animated feature. After an extended period of fighting crime on the streets of Gotham, the Bat-family and Justice League decide that Batman (Troy Baker) really needs a vacation ... and they know he's going to resist the idea. With a little trickery and guilt-tripping, Batgirl (Sarah Hyland) and Nightwing (Will Friedle) manage to drag Batman away for a reflective journey through his past, taking him far away from Gotham to the places where his skills of fighting crime originate. Naturally, trouble seems to follow Batman wherever he goes, pitting him against longstanding rival Deathstroke (John Dimaggio) along his travels. Back home at Gotham, Superman (Nolan North) takes over crime-fighting duties for the Caped Crusader, only to find that the scheming of Joker (Jason Spisak) and the other inmates of Arkham Asylum can be a bit trickier than he expected, leading him to call in the might of the Justice League for their assistance.

Like the previous entries in the LEGO DC direct-to-video universe, Gotham City Breakout isn't to be taken at all seriously. From the premise of Batman reluctantly going on vacation to Superman having trouble containing the powerless villains of Gotham City, the premise exists to be something of an amplified spoof of the superheroes' traits, even outright misrepresenting them to get laughs because they're misrepresented. Situational gags and one-liners come together into what plays like a hybrid of Joel Schumacher's Batman movies and the classic Adam West television series, or, for those familiar, like a string of cutscenes from one of the LEGO videogames. And it never misses a beat in terms of cornball jokes, whether it's about Batman's brooding, Robin's youthful responsibilities, or how the Man of Steel struggles against the scheming of Joker and his ... uh, all-important spoon. The humor occasionally hits the mark, like whenever Sarah Hyland's surprisingly solid performance as a bubbly Batgirl responds to her odd surroundings, but most of it ends up too exaggerated to appreciate beyond the target audience.

Really, it all depends on what you're hoping to get out of Gotham City Breakout: a bright and humorous distraction solely for the kids, or a viewing experience that the family can repeatedly enjoy. Despite the vibrant visual style and the cutely charismatic voice work continued from previous installments, the story itself becomes more ridiculous as it goes along, but not in the compelling, comic-logic adventure kind of way from Cosmic Clash or Attack of the Legion of Doom. Magic mind-probing for information, martial-arts sorcery launched as little 1x1 LEGO pieces, and spear-wielding primitives that look like Frankenstein occupy Batman's energy in one place while the Justice League scrambles to regain control of Gotham from almost the entire breadth of Batman's rogues gallery, yet, surprisingly, not much actually happens to keep the action moving forward alongside those things. Everything feels strung along and secondary to the pure zaniness emphasized in the cartoon, making it even tougher to hold one's attention throughout the inevitable happenings of Gotham City Breakout.

Video and Audio:

It's hard not to love the visual style of these LEGO direct-to-video films, which have a slick degree of tangibility about the textures and movements of the figures within an environment made up of LEGO blocks throughout. The transfer from WB and DC Animation isn't a digital heavyweight, mostly running lower than 20mbps in its 1.78:1 1080p AVC, but the general look of the animation stuns in high-definition. Subtle surface grains on the characters arms and the sharpness of the blocks' angles are discernible and sport no distracting issues throughout, while stronger textures of cape fabric and stone walls are appropriately pronounced. The color palette impresses equally as much: the bold colors of the characters' appearances remaining well-saturated and stable, as do the darker elements of Gotham City's orange-and-brown aesthetic and the Bat-family's dark-blue, purple, and black clothes. Action and the fast-moving blocks clocking together remain stable, while the faked depth-of-field blurring in backgrounds doesn't run into any overt issues.

There's plenty of novel, vigorous activity in the DTS-HD Master Audio track for Gotham City Breakout to dig into what the high-definition presentation can offer. A few explosions have enough mid-range pop to them, while the clicking together of the LEGO blocks and the expulsion of energy rays offer enjoyable high-end clarity without any issues. Dialogue ends up being more dominant than one might anticipate, though, and the robust cast's performances are in tip-top shape throughout, whether it's Troy Baker's vaguely Will Arnett-esque performance as Batman, the high-pitched cackles of Tara Strong's Harley Quinn, and everyone else in between. Rear-channel activity isn't frequent and there isn't much in the way of an immersive surround stage, but the bass levels are responsive enough to give everything a natural tempo, and the energetic music sounds great.

Special Features:

Beyond a Trailer for LEGO Scooby Doo: Haunted Hollywood (1:55, 16x9), a DVD Copy of the film and a Digital Copy, Gotham City Breakout only arrives with a tangible extra: a LEGO figurine of Nightwing. Strangely, he's sporting his "traditional" costume with a blue symbol and batons instead of the red that he's wearing in the animated film (his appearance from the New 52), but, hey.

Final Thoughts:

LEGO DC Superheroes: Gotham City Breakout marks the next in a line of kid-centered releases featuring Batman and the Justice League, offering a vibrant and deliberately lighthearted alternative to the heavy, violent state of DC's current cinematic universe. This one, however, takes on that mission a little more literally than others in the LEGO comic-book universe, confronting Batman with the perils of a vacation gone awry and creating a scenario where Superman and the rest of the Justice League can't manage to contain the largely powerless villains of Gotham City for a night. It's humorous and cute, the voice-acting is charming, and the visual style brilliantly maintains the illusion that these are all LEGO blocks, but the degree of silliness going on here significantly overburdens the storytelling that'd make it just as enjoyable for all ages. Rent It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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