All that I’ve read about The Lego Movie (2014) mentions that this is an extended advertisement for the plastic blocks. While that’s true, it is misleading. Writers-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with story help from Kevin and Dan Hageman, develop a theme that is resonant with any normal individual while also establishing the raison d’être of the company. Of course, they also get to use the expansive catalog of Lego’s greatest (and not-so-greatest) stylings from pirates to astronauts in bricks to accessories. So, in the way that G.I. Joe (2009) was decidedly not, this is very particularly the Lego movie.
Lord Business (Will Ferrell) has recently taken control of the Kragle from the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). But before Business gets away, Vitruvius delivers a prophesy about the Piece of Resistance that will be found by “the Special”, a person of extreme talent and interestingness who will defeat the Kragle and Lord Business. “All this is true because it rhymes.” Enter Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), a very unspecial construction worker who tries as hard as he possibly can to fit in. He listens to the same music as everyone else, likes all the same foods as everyone else, and likes to hang out with his friends. The problem is, he has no friends. One day, he sees a young woman, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks)–“Are you a DJ?”–sifting through the construction site searching for a relic–the Piece of Resistance. Emmet, running after Wyldstyle, trips and falls down a hole and finds the Piece of Resistance. That begins Emmet’s wild adventure to avoid Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) and stop the Kragle with the help of Wyldstyle, her boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett) and the other MasterBuilders.
The Lego Movie isn’t a Pixar film. It’s simpler than that. Where Pixar builds its themes throughout the narrative with deep characters and emotion, The Lego Movie provides a sum-up near the end that ties together a few, hinted-at clues into a meaningful knot. More important to the scene-to-scene success of the film is the comic journey and its cast of caricatures. But when they finally hammer home the moral of the story, it lifts (or reveals) the quality of the whole film. Up to that point, The Lego Movie feels rather like a well-funded Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie. The jokes are pretty easy, the allusions run thick, and if you don’t go in expecting something “delightful”, you could find it slight and not worth the price of admission. Then we get into the final act of the film and you realize that you’ve been fooled with the whole time. You thought you were in this pleasant little romp of no importance at all and they hit you in the emotional core, the deepest part of your personality.
I will tick off a few more bits and bobs that might interest you about the film. It is, despite the child of an enormous nexus of corporate interests, rather challenging to commercialism. In its sights are the campaigns that prey on your desire to fit in and “be normal” like catchy tunes that are base and meaningless. It subverts, rather like Robot Chicken (2005), a number of the franchise characters used by Lego and Warner Bros. The animation is not entirely excellent if you enjoy ‘realistic’ details. That said, the way they use Lego bricks to produce things like water, smoke, or explosions are sure to tickle a fair few viewers.
One reviewer asked whether we should fear the success of The Lego Movie which might inspire more zany conglomerations of gear-selling properties. I believe the answer is yes, we should be afraid. We needn’t be afraid if this particular team puts together a sequel–though it is certain to be worse. But consider Hoodwinked! (2005) and its sequel. Some substandard animation using public domain characters with crazy child-oriented illogic with a few bits to please the parents. It’s animation by committee or, more accurately, by a board of directors. No vision, no soul, just gettin’ it done. I guarantee that The Lego Movie will inspire that kind of laziness. But that’s no reason not to enjoy this one.
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