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"The Lego Movie" review

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The Lego Movie

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There are certain things that everyone remembers from their childhood, and for generations old and new in Fresno and all over the world, one of those things is our favorite toys. And in the realm of iconic toys, there aren't many as iconic of and innocent as Lego. The franchise of interlocking brick toys first went into production in 1949 and ever since has been an outlet for children's originality, imagination, and optimistic sense of fun all over the world. Since the brand's creation, Lego has expanded to include a variety of theses, play sets, construction set, and even dozens of licensed properties under their banner; why, today kids re thrilling to such sub-franchises as Lego Batman, Lego, Star Wars, Lego Lord of he Rings, Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc., many of which have since been adapted into their own animated films or video games. With something as iconic and massively appealing as that, perhaps a theatrical film was inevitable.

Now at this point the more cynical among you are probably thinking, "Seriously, a movie based on a children's construction toy?" Well, yes, it cannot be denied that at the end of the day this is a feature-length toy commercial, but so are all of the films Hasbro has put out and look how successful they have been. And besides, the previews and trailers make it clear that The Lego Movie has an advantage that most of those other movies do not, they are making this movie specifically for kids and about what it means to be a kid, and that, in terms, helps make it accessible to everyone.

The film opens up with the wizard Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) attempting to protect a superweapon called the "Kragle" the evil Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). Vitruvius fails, but he warns Lord Business about a prophecy that one day a person called the "Special" will find the Piece of Resistance capable of stopping the Kragle.

Years later, an ordinary construction worker who always relies on instruction manuals named Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) comes across a woman named Wyldstyle (voiced by Elezabeth Banks), who is searching for something after hours at Emmet's construction site. Instantly attracted to her, Emmet ends up falling into a hole and finds the Piece of Resistance. Upon touching it, Emmet experiences vivid visions and passes out. When he awakens, he finds that the Piece of Resistance is attached to his back and he is now in the custody of Lord Business' lieutenant, Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson). There, Emmet learns of Business' plans to destroy the world with the Kragle, before Wyldstyle rescues him and takes him to Vitruvius, who explains that he and Wyldstyle are "Master Builders" being from across the various Lego worlds (i.e. play sets) capable of building anything they need, both with great speed and without instruction manuals. It turns out that years ago, Lord Business rose to power and his hatred of the Master Builders' anarchic creativity lead him to capture many of them. As the supposed "Special", Emmet is the one destined to defeat him, yet Wyldstyle and Vitruvius are disappointed to find Emmet displays no creativity whatsoever, save for some seemingly useless ideas like building a double-decker couch.

Making a host of new allies, including the pirate Metal Beard (played by Nick Offerman), the always perky Uni-Kitty (voiced by Alison Brie), a 1980s spaceman named Benny (voiced by Charlie Day), and Wyldstyle boyfriend, none other than Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), Emmet must find his true potential and stop Lord Business' plans to use the Kragle to freeze the universe perfectly in place. But is Emmet truly the "special," or is he really just a completely ordinary construction worker with nothing special about him whatsoever? And what role does the mysterious "Man Upstairs" have to play in the coming battle for the fate of an entire Lego universe.

I have to confess, going into this movie as a grown adult who is ultimately still a child at heart, I did not know what to expect with this movie, but i left feeling like I got just what I should have: a fun, innocent, visually-unique film appropriate for kids, but which leaves adults feeling young again. Let's not kid ourselves (no pun intended), this film is not for everyone. If you are a grown adult who cannot stand kid's movies or anything that generally aimed at families, then this is not the movie for you. But if you've got kids, or if you're a kid at heart, then this a a wonderful film to go see.

The first big thing I have to praise about The Lego Movie is the animation. Looking at all of the trailers, I was impressed that the whole thing looked liked it was made out of real Legos, and why not since I have seen people build some pretty impressive things out of those little toy blocks, not the least of which is an entire theme park! I admit that I was a tad let down learning that the film was going to be be CGI and not actual stop motion, but I guess I cannot blame them. Nevertheless, the genius of this film, is that they chose to go for a very stop motion look, with all of the sets looking like actual play sets, having the character's movements occasionally jump frames, always remembering where to put the little tabs on the ground where the Lego characters can connect, and just the overall textures on the characters looking spot-on to the actual toys.

Every single thing that happens in the this film looks like it is done with Legos, as it should. When you see clouds and water, the clouds and water look like they are made of Legos that swirl and flow as a mass of solid bricks. When you see fire shoot out of the horns of Lord Business' helmet, the streams of fire looks life a plastic accessory fire you would likely find in certain Lego sets. Even the explosions like like they are made out of Legos. The only things that are clearly not made of Legos are anomalies that are critical tip-offs to the plot of what kind of universe we are really living in, the biggest one being the Kragle, which turns out to be nothing more than a tube of Krazy Glue with some of the logo's letter rubbed out.

There was also a conscious effort to pay homage to the various eras of the Lego brand. Emmet is just a average construction worker and his world is very much a standard Lego City environment, which to me takes me back to the origins of the brand, were it was just a couple of bricks and a few basic figures and things were left completely up to your imagination. But then we get to the council of the Master Builders where all of the licensed characters come in to pay homage to Lego as it is now, where you have boxed play set containing all the pieces you need to build one specific thing, including "instruction manuals." In addition to Lego Batman appearing in a major role, we see cameos from Lego Superman, Lego Wonder Woman, Lego Green Lantern, Lego Gandalf, Lego Dumbledore, Lego William Shakespeare, Lego Shaquille O'Neal, Lego Abraham Lincoln, Lego Michelangelo from TMNT, Lego Han Solo, Lego Chewbacca, Lego C-3PO and Lego Lando Calrissian, just to name a few.

The jokes in this film vary from pandering specifically to kids to being genuinely funny. For instance, there is a running gag that Emmet's favorite TV show is a sitcom called Where's my Pants?, which is just the same joke of a man going up to his wife in his painted-on Lego underwear and asking her that question over and over again.

While the plot of The Lego Movie is essentially the classic everyman story we've all seen before, the creative-looking visuals and the overall heart still makes it worth watching. Emmet is introduced and the absolute most blank, overly optimistic, yet completely un-unique guy imaginable who, again, has never had a single unique idea ever pop into his head save for that seemingly useless double-decker chair, so how can he be the "Special." But the big message of this movie is that even the most seemingly ordinary, unassuming person can be special if they only believe they are special.

I said earlier that this movie is all about what it is like to be a kid, and boy did I mean it. Only a child's imagination could imagine something as wild as pirate who rebuilt himself as a giant robot cobbled together with a bunch of junk, or a scene where your characters are out in the old west being chased by a hoard of angry pigs only to be rescued, completely out of nowhere, by Batman. As adults, we are always forced to take logic into account in terms of storytelling, and that is very much the point-of-view that Lord Business' is coming from, wanting to keep everything in order and literally "frozen" (with Krazy Glue) in it's so-called "proper place" with no freedom of expression or imagination. But this is Lego, something that is a literally a building block for a child to express there imagination, so logic and common sense has little to no place here.

If there is a complaint that I have heard about the film that I can agree with, is that it does drag on a bit too long. With a total running time of 100 minutes, its not bad, but maybe if they could have trimmed off a little bit of the opening song or the action sequences, or just got us to the ending a little bit earlier, this would be an even more solid family film than it is now.

And that brings me to last fifteen or so minutes of the film, which I cannot spoil for anyone because it would ruin to effect the ending has on the audience, but lets just say that I was very pleased that they chose to pull the curtain back and make the message clear to us in such a literal and surprisingly emotional fashion. Sure, the idea of directly paralleling the final standoff between Emmet and Lord Business and what is gong on in this other side of the story may seem cliche to some, but to me it was exactly what this story needed. That final sequence, as said by IGN, is a well-judged, heartfelt sequence which also serves as a great epiphany which changes the way you look at the entire film. I was literally stunned that the writers were smart enough to take the Lego concept to this place and, to paraphrase IGN once again, allow the film to become a little bit special in its final moments.

The voice cast is very solid here. Chris Pratt brings an overly optimistic spirit and everyman edge to Emmet Brickowski, playing him as a guy totally happy with his current lot in life, but who secretly longs to be someone truly special, and whom goes on this epic journey to realize just how special he can really be if he just believes. Will Ferrell is hilariously over-the-top as Lord Business, deliberately playing a cartoonish, almost bumbling character that is nevertheless a legitimate threat; as a contrast the that, Farrell also plays a second role in the film which goes for an opposite approach that contributes heavily to the film's final and deepest moments. Elizabeth Banks plays the role of Wyldstyle with a typical, yet enjoyable, sense of feminine toughness that hides a very strong emotional side; a pretty typical female protagonist, but still a good one. Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, overplaying the brooding, most jerkish tendencies fans know about the character to the most extreme level. It is hard to explain to the casual viewer, but once you see the film, you will leave thinking to yourself, "yep, that's the lovable Bat-jerk right there." Morgan Freeman is wonderful as the wizard Vitruvius, using the natural grandeur of his voice to read some of the goofiest and most pop=culture heavy line of the film, thus making them even more hilarious; clearly he is having a great time in this role. Liam Neeson plays up his recent tough-as-nails action star persona to the utmost as Bad Cop, which he complements with the characters mild-mannered alter-ego Good Cop. Like Neeson, he plays the role very much like a parody of himself, making him one of the more delightful characters. Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Charlie Day also turn in fun performances and Metal Beard, Uni-Kitty and Benny, respectively, each making their character fun, over-the-top, and worth paying attention to when they each get their moment by the end. Other notable cameo performances include Channing Tatum as Superman, Jonah Hill as Green Lantern, Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman, Craig Berry as Blake, David Burrows as Octan Robot, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Amanda Farinos as Mom, Keith Ferguson as Han Solo, Will Forte as Abraham Lincoln, Dave Franco as Wally, Todd Hansen as Gandalf, Jake Johnson as Barry, Keegan-Michael Key as Foreman Jim, Kelly Lafferty as Lord Business' Assistant, Chris Miller as TV Presenter, Graham Miller as Duplo, Shaquille O'Neal as Himself, Chris Paluszek as Robot Foreman, Chris Romano as Joe, Melissa Sturm as Ma Cop, Jorma Taccone as William Shakespeare, Leiki Veskimets as Computer, and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, with a special performance of note made by child actor Jadon Sand as Finn.

Overall, The Lego Movie succeeds in breaking free of it's commercialized roots and delivers a charming, visually-unique and surprisingly emotional story that will delight families all over the world, especially kids. It does run a bit too long, and the biggest sourpusses in the world will probably find little to enjoy here, but if you are an adult with kids of your own, or even if you someone who is still a child at heart, then this is definitely something worth checking out. As the theme song says, "Everything is awesome!"

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