The Lego Movie (2014): PG. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
This film is currently playing in theaters everywhere.
The Lego Movie, a 3-D animation (while looking like stop-motion) directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, follows the story of Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO figure who is identified as the "most extraordinary person" who can save the LEGO universe from the evil tyrant, Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who is bent on destroying (or "perfecting") the LEGO universe by gluing it all together. Helping Emmet on his task is the spunky goth-chick Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and wise old sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).
Simply put, this is a great film about Legos…which at first might not be saying much. If there’s a film that showed everything you ever loved about Legos, this would be it (assuming you loved Legos when you were a kid). This film champions the importance of imagination and originality. It is ridiculously energetic, constantly inventive, deliriously funny, yet at the heart of it, quite touching. There are tons of pop culture references and in-jokes throughout, which should please many adults. Thematically and emotionally, this is a very close cousin to Toy Story, which too is saying a lot.
I grew up in the 80's with Legos. I thought they were the most perfect building blocks/toys ever made (and probably still is). I recall trying to make video game characters out of them like Pac-Man or Dig Dug (conveniently, video games back then were pixelated as well). If you took a less imaginative approach, one may say this was like playing Tetris before Tetris was invented. I probably still haven't fully outgrown Legos, at least in spirit…especially before Legos started to make all these "specialized" sets with instructions, which I admit took away the whole challenge of creativity. To follow on that idea, the main character Emmet in the film starts off following pre-made instructions all his life, always trying to fit in. In the Lego Universe, there are also several special characters (mostly heroes) who are “Master Builders” (Emmet is supposedly one of them but doesn't know it) who have the ability to build anything functional on the fly using their own imagination (without a need for instructions) with a bunch of Lego pieces.
The visuals are quite spectacular, colorful, and intricately detailed. There are tons of visual gags. Created in 3-D graphics, the pieces are made to look like real stop-motion animation, with real camera angles with depth of field and fuzziness. Every broken piece, smoke, fire, explosion, and water are made of pixel-like Lego material, making them stylistically interesting. The film pretty much follows this rule consistently—the characters actually move, fall, and land like plastic objects and do not ever bend at the elbows. I saw this film in stereoscopic 3-D where I was able to see every Lego piece fly out in intricate detail. A movie theater experience is recommended as it's a great way to fly through and appreciate the film's intricately detailed environment.
The voice acting is pretty much spot-on, with Chris Pratt bringing much humor and life into Emmet. Elizabeth Banks brings the spunk to Wyldstyle, Will Ferrel is fun as the villain Lord Business, and Will Arnett is hilarious as the brooding Batman. Morgan Freeman is great as always playing the wise man as Vitruvius and Liam Neeson is memorable as a chair-kicking, bipolar Good Cop/Bad Cop. There are also many cameo voice-acting from celebrities as various famous characters from pop culture (in Lego form) drop in, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DC comic characters, Gandalf, and a handful of scoundrels from a franchise I won’t mention here.
The writing is strong, with various thematic elements jammed together—government corruption, conformity, Big Brother, child psychoanalysis, Christ-influenced parallels, relationships, and various others. Ultimately, though, there’s a bit of a “Big Whoop” (Monkey Island 2 reference there) twist which may or may not bring an extra bit of information about what is actually going on in the Lego universe. Nevertheless, the film goes somewhat to a deeper level at this point.
If there is any complaint, it could be that pacing-wise, things do get pretty frenetic with many little details zipping through and everything happening at once. There were more than a few moments where I had to concentrate in order to catch up to everything. If I didn’t care about the characters already, I could see how all this energy could seem bland and overdone. Thankfully, this was not the case, since I connected well with the characters. Yeah, it’s probably true that the film is ultimately a big ol’ commercial for the toys, but it didn’t feel that way (as it does poke fun at its limitations) and hey, I respect Legos (for kids’ creative development) more than many toys out there. It’s a kind of film that makes you want to have a kid so you can play with Legos with him/her, which is the best kind of flattery for any toy out there.
My (Four Star Scale) Rating: *** ½ out of **** stars