Film Review – The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie (2014) is more infectious than it probably has the right to be. The idea is absurd: an entire universe made up of those little building blocks we used to play with as children, and inhabited by yellow characters with funny shaped hands. But with a ton of laughs, high-octane energy, and an unsuspected level of emotion, it found its way under my cynical defenses just minutes in. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who both co-wrote the screenplay), the story has a nice blend of earnestness and ironic self-awareness. This is a ton of fun, even while some may argue it’s nothing more than a feature-length version of a toy commercial.
If there is one big complaint here, it’s that there is too much energy. The pacing is set to hyper drive, as we bounce back and forth amongst the different worlds and lands. At one point, we’re in a metropolitan area filled with high skyscrapers, and then whisked to a set straight out of the old west. The characters move and speak with such breathless momentum, certain jokes or plot details may get lost in the shuffle. People that suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder won’t have a problem here, as we never settle on a scene for more than a minute or two at a time.
The animation appears to be a combination of stop-motion and computer generated imagery. This allows the visuals to have the jerky, not-quite-smooth type of motion, but the CGI provides special effects in smaller yet effective details. Because everything is made of Lego blocks, the colors have a lively texture. This obviously appeals to the eye, but works as a nice contrast to the comedy. The dialogue has a sly wit about it, appealing to both children and adults – even sneaking in some pop culture references. Because it’s so self-aware, the film reminds me of Robot Chicken in how it pokes fun of its material on multiple occasions (and the use of stop motion). Because honestly, how can you a have universe containing Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Abraham Lincoln and not have a silly good time?
At the center of the plot is Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), a nice but ordinary everyday worker. Emmet tries hard to be like everyone else: he has a job, an apartment, and a routine. He follows instructions closely, and adheres to the norm with very little hesitation. He helps create all the buildings as they were properly designed, never wavering outside of what is expected. But because of this, Emmet never stands out from the rest. All he wants is to be liked, but because he follows the rules like the other workers, he’s simply become a cog within the big city, barely noticeable to the rest of society.
That is, until he runs into a pack of rebels, known as the Master Builders. The Master Builders are a group of characters that do not go by the rules, but follow their own creativity. They use the Lego blocks to create buildings and machines to their own liking, using parts not as they were meant to but as a tool for their own invention. Following instructions is not something the Master Builders do. This group includes a badass builder named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the glowing-eyed prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and Batman (Will Arnett).
The Master Builders come to Emmet because they believe he is “The Special,” the final piece to their prophecy. A long time ago, an evil man known as Lord Business (Will Ferrell) got a hold of a secret weapon called “The Kragle.” After suppressing the population through propaganda on radio and TV, it’s believed Lord Business will use The Kragle to destroy the world on the day of reckoning known as…Taco Tuesday. Sided with his henchman Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) and his police force, Lord Business’s power seems unmatched. Only The Special can help stop Lord Business from accomplishing his devious plan, but how can Emmet succeed if he can barely put two blocks together without the use of instructions?
This is the classic “Hero’s Journey”, and I’m sure many will see the similarities between what Emmet goes through and the adventure taken by one Luke Skywalker. You can bet the filmmakers saw this also, as they threw in their own odes to the Star Wars franchise. But the writing does a nice job of tying everything together, coming up with reasons for all the strange names given and odd places visited. As we dig deeper, we come to understand why all of this exists, and why there is such a battle between following the rules and using your own imagination. The message is simple, but depicted in both a hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt way.
The Lego Movie has such delight telling its story I ended up leaning back and just enjoying the ride. There really isn’t much else left to say – those who see it will most likely get exactly what they were expecting.
P.S: I challenge anyone to hear the main song “Everything is Awesome” and not get it stuck in their heads.