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Movie review: 'The Lego Movie'

The Lego Movie

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There aren’t many toys out there that are as timeless as LEGOs. Sure, you can buy all those sets now that feature models from your favorite current movies and TV shows, from “The Avengers” to “The Lord of the Rings”, but there’s a simple pleasure to be derived from tossing aside the instructions for a little while and using just the bricks and your imagination to create whatever your heart desires.

Emmet and Batman team up to save the universe
Warner Brothers

It seems like, at first glance, a film about LEGOs would just be yet another big budget movie based on a toy, one that is just one big advertisement. But that is not at all the case, as Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s “The Lego Movie” creates its own wonderful little universe, and that debate between whether to go by the instructions or just build whatever you want to becomes a discussion on free will. Sounds a little deep for a comedy film based on a toy, right? Maybe, but somehow, someway, the crazy, random worlds depicted in the movie, all the way up to its unexpected, touching conclusion, is a surprise that comes together almost perfectly.

The film opens in Bricksburg, a nice little town where everyone follows their instructions. They all greet each other with “good mornings”, buy overpriced coffee, listen to the same song (the incredibly catchy “Everything is Awesome) on the radio, and head to work. Everything is perfect; everything is the same. Minifigure Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), loves this life, and like everyone else in Bricksburg doesn’t notice the surveillance cameras put in place by President Business (Will Ferrell), who is secretly the powerful Lord Business who plans to glue the universe together to keep things the way he wants them.

But when Emmet stumbles upon the “Piece de Resistance” at the construction site, he is quickly swept up from his normal life by the quirky Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and into the community of Master Builders, a group who is secretly trying to undermine Lord Business’ attempts to make everyone follow the instructions. According to the God-like figure Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the prophecy says that Emmet is the Special, and he is the one who will stop Lord Business and save the universe. But Emmet doesn’t know the first thing about building; in fact, he hasn’t had an original thought in his life, something he must try to overcome if he is to fulfill the prophecy.

Emmet is joined by a colorful cast of characters that also includes Batman (Will Arnett), the Unikitty (Alison Brie), and the Transformer-type pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman). There’s something wonderful about the randomness of each different world the characters enter, and each new character that appears. The feeling is truly that of a person playing with their LEGOs; because really, does anyone who owns a Millennium Falcon and a pirate ship NOT have them encounter each other? On top of that, the film takes the wonderful comedic opportunity granted by having so many different characters from pop culture in the same film to create some parodies that are truly spot on—especially Batman, who is constantly in a foul mood and writes songs about being an orphan.

The film also makes use of some very funny sight gags and one liners that zip by so quickly, you’ll likely have to see the film a second time to catch everything. But that’s okay, because fortunately this movie is so funny, you’ll probably want to see it again regardless. There’s a special kind of humor to be found for those who grew up playing with LEGOs, from the “Octan” corporation to the classic sets that make an appearance and the recognizable numbers that appear every time the Master Builders gather bricks to build something. Of course, those who aren’t too familiar with the toy will still appreciate the humor throughout the film.

The animation is particularly noteworthy. This is a CGI movie, but it’s hard to tell sometimes when looking at it. The animators instead gave characters and effects a jerky quality when they move, creating the effect of a stop motion animated film made with real LEGO bricks (and hasn’t just about everyone at least tried to make a movie with their LEGOS?). It’s rather strange and beautiful to behold, and one can’t help but marvel at the detail put into everything from the flames of an explosion to the ocean, which is made entirely of little blue bricks.

In the film’s climax the story takes a turn that’s completely unexpected. Even though the touching finale and rather thought-provoking message doesn’t entirely gel with the zaniness of the story up to that point, it’s quite nice, and proves that the filmmakers were thinking about this film on a higher level that mere entertainment. The ultimate message is a bit conflicting, however, and doesn’t entirely make sense; pushing people to forgo using instructions and rely instead on their own creativity kind of defeats the purpose of most LEGO models sold today. But I guess that’s part of the beauty of this film—it isn’t trying to advertise a product, but rather use that product to tell a wonderful story.

Runtime: 100 minutes. Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

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