LOS ANGELES -- With his voice-acting as Robin in The LEGO Batman Movie, Michael Cera continues to show us that he is one of our most prolific and funniest actors -- and for that we have Bill Murray to thank.
Why? At the age of 3, Cera was beset by a case of the chicken pox and was laid up for almost two weeks. He said that he was enthralled by Murray's Peter Venkman and the other heroes of Ghostbusters and that it eventually led to him wanting to act himself.
"When you're a kid and you're learning how to watch a movie and you're slowly trying to understand what the idea of a movie is and you want to follow the story," Cera said, "you learn to ask questions. And trying to understand that they're not really people in the movie, they're actors, and there are a whole bunch of people you don't see responsible for how things work -- and that was fascinating to me. But that was my favorite movie. I watched it over and over."
Cera said he hoped that people - especially kids - would get the same reaction watching The Lego Batman Movie and that a big reason he said yes to being a part of it was how much he "surprisingly enjoyed" the The LEGO Movie in 2014.
"I remember when it first came out, not expecting anything, because I didn't know what a LEGO Movie would be." Cera said. "I didn't know anything about it. I just went on a whim -- and had so much fun! I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I thought it would be just for kids, but it was so well done and worked for me on so many different levels.... So when I got invited for this one, it was just really easy to say yes to."
While Cera said he did not think The LEGO Batman Movie was only for children, he did want to make it clear it was definitely a lot cleaner than his last animated film, Seth Rogen's raunchy Sausage Party.
"Obviously, it's a family-friendly movie, so parents can take their kids to it and have a good time," he said. "But I don't think you can classify it as just a kids' film simply because it's animated. To me, it's still enjoyable for everyone. I would say the same thing about Pixar movies. I would never classify them as just kids' films either -- because they have great storytelling and art that everyone can appreciate."
Cera feels his Robin in the movie is respectful to the character's 77-year history as the counterbalance to Batman's darkness, while being portrayed in a fresh way -- as an optimistic, cheerful boy.
"Well, that approach to the character was pretty fully developed without me," Cera said. "But I thought we did a real nice job of portraying the character -- especially considering the kind of animation we were using -- in a way that's never been done. A little boy version of Robin vs. the traditional teen version."
There are some great in-jokes in the film regarding previous Batman films, but knowledge of the Caped Crusader canon is not necessary to enjoy the film -- although it does make it even more fun.
"I think it's a great acknowledgement that we're following the Batmans of the past, but the film doesn't limit itself to shout-outs. It casts a wide net of references," said Cera, who counts his favorite version of the character as the Adam West Batman from the 1960s TV show.
"That captured my attention when I was about 5, and at that age, I was really enjoying the whole Batman world," Cera said. "I didn't even have to make an effort to connect with it. It was just so accessible.
"It still has this timeless appeal, the whole Batman mythos. There's something about the Batman story that is just so captivating," he added. "It's still going. It still has legs, all these years later. It's a story that we're not tired of."
Speaking of legs, would Cera be interested in a LEGO Batman Movie sequel?
"Oh, yeah! It was great fun!"