An animated explosion of awesomeness you don’t want to lego
Lego may very well be the best toy ever invented. As a kid I would spend countless hours stacking those interlocking plastic bricks building things that probably would not pass an official inspection. But I didn’t care; I was a Master Builder, building what I wanted. Stuff I enjoyed.
It is that same enthusiasm that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring to The Lego Movie. Its title may be generic, but the look is far from ordinary. For those that have seen Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, then you know that Lord and Miller push the limits of what is normally expected in family entertainment. With animation you can let your imagination run wild, yet in terms of big studio movies 2013 was pretty weak with little pizzazz – the exceptions being Frozen and The Wind Rises, the latter of which gets a national release (albeit English-language dub) in February 2014.
For those who perceive this Lego movie as a means to fork over money to see a two-hour commercial for those plastic bricks, then you’re missing something truly special. This is far from being simple product placement; it becomes something more transcendent. It’s clever, really clever. The jokes are a laugh-a-minute – maybe every 30 seconds. The vocal cast is tops, and there’s a nice swerve in the final act that’s akin to the works of Charlie Kaufman. And this is in what’ll be labeled a kids’ movie.
Due to Lego toys and its many different types of play sets, audiences are afforded a kaleidoscopic universe involving a Wild West motif and one that’ll have your head in the clouds. As for the characters – my goodness. Much like what Steven Spielberg and Disney were able to accomplish with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Warner Bros. looks to its stable of franchises and includes Lego minifigures of the likes of Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings), DC Comics superheroes (Batman, Superman), and Michelangelo (both the artist and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). There’s also a great cameo near the climax. I won’t spoil here – unlike some have done in reviews and on Twitter – but trust me, when you see it you’ll think it’s awesome.
The story is familiar to anyone who has seen a sci-fi/fantasy film where the perils of life or death depend on a chosen one. The Matrix had Neo. The one who will save the Lego universe is a person born with “face of yellow.” This is foreseen by Vitruvius, a soothsayer voiced by Morgan Freeman. The hero? An ordinary, average blockhead construction worker named Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt). Working in the town of Bricksburg his routine consists of waking up and reading his instructions on what to do each morning and throughout the day. He raises no questions or ire when he has to pay thirty-seven dollars for a cup of coffee. By all accounts Emmet’s a simpleton. He is the model citizen, and fits perfectly in the world that President Business (Will Ferrell) envisions. A world where he controls everything the Lego minifigures do. The citizens tune in to watch the hit show “Where Are My Pants?”; everyone sings the annoyingly catchy disco anthem hit “Everything Is Awesome.” If this is supposed to be a utopia, maybe we need to rethink things. Nevertheless, Lord and Miller, along with animation co-director Chris McKay, playfully mock our own world. A world predicated on corporations dictating the temporary pleasures we enjoy.
Yet there is a resistance brewing with a bunch of rogue Lego Master Builders looking to foil Business’s plans. Enter Emmet. Mr. Who Does Everything As Instructed. He’s mistaken for being the one the prophecy foretold, even though his anonymous life doesn’t interlock with the autonomous nature of the rebellion. You’d almost think he’d be a spy for President Business, who is also Lord Business, a Darth Vader-like tyrant.
The Lego Movie is a vibrant film. Colorful and energetic throughout, Lord and Miller sneak in so many jokes – some as small as those plastic bricks – that it has as much replayability as a Zucker brothers (Airplane, The Naked Gun) movie. Even something as inconsequential, like a Lego character wrapped up in a Band-Aid, generates smirks of glee, if not outright chuckles, because of the digital imagery.
Much of the comedy is tangential, with puns, references made and sight gags. When the storytelling changes in the last act, some won’t like the direction Lord and Miller take, but it ties the film’s message together. Is it a bit schmaltzy? Of course. But it works surprisingly well. So much so that I’m all for climbing up into my attic and grabbing the plastic bin of Legos I played with as a kid. Thanks Lego Movie. Everything is truly awesome.
Writer/Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller Notable Cast: Voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!