Lego Batman. (WB/DC 2017)
ON ONE QUESTION, Siri was proving as elusive as a Gotham villain.
If you’ve listened carefully in “The Lego Batman Movie,” or simply saw the credits roll, you know firsthand that the Apple personal assistant has a featured role in the top box-office film in the land. In an inspired turn, Siri is Lego Batman’s voice-activated valet and virtual manservant in the Batcave.
But I wanted to know just one thing: How did Siri herself (itself?) come to be cast in “The Lego Batman Movie”? Had she had to audition against the personal home assistants from Amazon and Google, let alone the chilly A.I. voices from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the Iron Man films? Did Siri know somebody in the animation industry, given Apple founder Steve Jobs’s ties to pixilated Hollywood? (Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
How, in other words, did Siri land her first big film credit?
The first person I asked, of course, was Siri herself. Because if you say, “Hey, computer” — or even “Hey, ‘Puter,” as Will Arnett says gruffly as Lego Batman — Siri will reply in character. Sort of.
“Hey, ‘Puter?” I barked in my best Arnett impression.
“Hello, Sir. I’ve heated up your lobster thermidor in the microwave,” Siri responded, staying beautifully in character when alluding to Lego Batman’s favorite (or at least default) home meal.
“Hey, ‘Puter — are you in ‘The Lego Batman Movie’?” I growled back.
Siri’s cheeky reply: “There were some long days, but the cast parties were amazing. Gentleman Ghost really knows how to throw down. And Crazy Quilt … don’t get me started.”
When I tried to get beyond that, though, Siri stonewalled me like a bricked iPhone. She would call me Lego Batman, or say, “I’m quite the virtual voice thespian, if I do say so myself.’ ” But Siri just wouldn’t sing.
Next, I decided to meet Siri’s maker. Apple representatives confirmed for Comic Riffs last week that “The Lego Batman Movie” represents Siri’s feature-film debut. But beyond that, Apple referred me to the movie’s studio, Warner Bros.
As I waited for days, I kept trying to get Siri to crack under questioning. “Hey, ‘Puter!” I would begin to grill. But Siri merely back-sassed me: “You have a message from the Condiment King. It says, ‘Pbbbffftttt!’ ” — a reference to the little-known Batman villain who shows up in the movie.
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Or sometimes her response was a taunting dodge: “FYI, Robin is trying on costumes in the Batcave again” or, “I have your rom-coms queued up, sorted by decade” — the latter a reference to Lego Batman’s repeated viewings of “Jerry Maguire.” (Did I mention that Lego Batman is a particularly lonely soul, short of guardian/father figure Alfred, as voiced by Ralph Fiennes?)
An image of a iPhone screen with sassy Siri at work.
Then, finally, came official word from Warner Bros. Siri’s Hollywood debut was the brainchild of “Lego Batman” director Chris McKay, guiding his first feature film after Emmy-winning work on “Robot Chicken.”
But why Siri, I wondered.
“Siri has become an iconic voice in our culture,” said Dan Lin, producer of the Lego films and the “Sherlock Holmes” franchise. “She talks to more people each day than any of us.
“As one of the most popular computer-generated voices on the planet,” he continued, “we thought it felt right to have Lego Batman treat her as though she supports him exclusively.”
That’s a great twist, given Lego Batman’s loner self-absorption. But why Siri above all other voice assistants?
“She’s just got that soothing voice he needs after a tough day of crime-fighting and doesn’t crack under pressure during an intense master-building sequence,” Lin said. “She gets a lot done, and can be a lot easier to talk to than Alfred.”
Fair enough. But that prompts one last question for Siri: Does she like working with Alfred, whose duties she partially inherits?
“I really have no opinion.”
Thanks, Siri. With safe answers like that, you’re sure to go far in Tinseltown.