Friday, February 14, 2014

The Lego Movie Review

I was so excited for The Lego Movie (2014) when I saw the trailer for it. It looked hilarious. I could see it either being an incredible, fun animated movie or a hundred-minute long commercial for toy products. This movie not only met my highest hopes, but it exceeded my expectations by a lot!
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an unremarkable construction worker who is perfectly happy with his settled existence as an ordinary citizen of the metropolis of Bricksburg. The plastic world is run by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Everything is monotonous and routine, but no one complains because no one knows any different. Things change when Emmet follows a mysterious figure named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and discovers an ancient artifact known as the Piece of Resistance. According to the prophecy, this makes Emmet "The Special." After escaping Lord Business's henchman, Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), the two meet up with Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) an old wizard to determine Emmet's role in stopping Lord Business's evil plans. They meet up with other Master Builders including Batman (Will Arnett), Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie), Metal Beard the Pirate (Nick Offerman), and Benny the 1980-something space guy (Charlie Day) to construct a plan to save the entire Lego world from Lord Business's secret weapon, The Kragle.
The Lego Movie was written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. These are the geniuses who wrote and directed the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which I absolutely loved. Lord and Miller have excellent talent for writing an interesting and fun story, capturing high energy in their camera work, a great sense of comedic timing, and animating some very expressive characters. All of that is present in this movie, too.
The animation for The Lego Movie is absolutely phenomenal. Literally everything is made out of Lego pieces; people, buildings, cars, props, fire, explosions, water, fog, etc. What's amazing is, I don't think there were many Lego pieces used in the movie that don't actually exist in real life. The animation is CGI, but the movement is made to resemble stop motion animation. The characters moved like Lego figures; their arms could only move on one axis, they don't have knees, and they don't have articulate hands. All that made the movie feel much more tactile and realistic. They even got the texture of the Lego pieces spot on. Some are shiny and smooth, others are more rough and don't reflect the light as well, you can see the plastic seam leftover from plastic mold, you can even see slight tooth marks on some old pieces. You know you tried to unstick two stubborn Lego blocks by prying them apart with your teeth as a kid. Don't deny it. It looks for all the world like a camera zoomed in on an elaborately build Lego set. Here's a clip to help illustrate:

One of the neat things about The Lego Movie is that it captures feel of the Lego toys. There is a remarkably fun feeling of creating, inventing, and self-expression that is laced throughout the movie. It even encapsulates the manic feeling of trying to build something out of Lego blocks. In one scene, the newly assembled team is trying to make an escape vehicle as fast as possible. They are constantly shouting things like, "If anybody has black parts, I need them, okay?" "Use the yellow bricks." "No, it has to look this way!" "Does anyone know what this is and do you need it?" "We should use wings and rocket boosters." It sounds exactly like my friends and I did when we were playing with Lego. There are lots of mismatched characters and sets, just like you would have with a collection of different Lego sets. Dumbledore and Gandalf get annoyed when they are mistaken for each other, Michelangelo, the artist, is juxtaposed with Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle, and there are several cameos by actors portraying either themselves or characters they have played, not the least of which includes Shaquille O'Neal. It's simply amazing how the feeling of playing with Lego was incorporated into the movie! 
Part of what makes The Lego Movie so interesting is the layers of theme. On the surface it looks like a brightly colored fun light-hearted kids movie. Lord and Miller skillfully balance an impressive array of narrative and thematic spinning plates; the tension between following instructions and going your own way is at the heart of this movie. It also tackles ideas like order and chaos, adults and children, practicality and magic, the real and the imaginary. Yet it presents it in a laugh-a-minute, kid-friendly way that will entertain kid viewers and intrigue adult viewers. It's almost like Toy Story had it been written by Mel Brooks after reading George Orwell's 1984. 
The Lego Movie completely blew me away. I was hoping for something good, but hadn't dared to expect something this well made. Just as it's recurring musical number suggest, "Everything is Awesome" and there really isn't a better word for it. The characters are fun, the animation is exceptional, the setting was highly creative, the themes were multi-layered and interesting, and the humor was right up my alley.  I honestly can't say anything bad about this movie. It's got a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, for goodness sake! Go watch this in theaters; it's well worth ticket price. It's the kind of film we want to encourage Hollywood to keep making. I wasn't even halfway done with the movie before I decided I had to get a copy on blu-ray when it becomes available.

This was easily the best movie based on a toy product that I can think of. Can you think of another one that was good? Which toy based movie was the worst? Comment below and tell me all about it!


  1. I'm sold. I'm going to take my son this weekend.

    1. Fantastic! I ended up seeing this twice (so far). I'm sure you and your son will love it. Thanks for the comment!