The Lego Movie Review

Built for success.

rating:4

On paper, making a movie based entirely on LEGO sounds like a crazy idea, but writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have built a career out of thinking outside the box. The last two films they've made, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, also seemed like bad ideas at first, but Lord and Miller have managed to make each film succeed by letting their imaginations run wild. Not only is The LEGO Movie a perfect example of this, the movie's also an unabashed celebration of the imagination. You think you had fun with your Legos when you were a kid? Wait until you see what these guys can do with them. From the beginning, the most staggering aspect of The LEGO Movie is how much attention to detail was paid to these LEGO worlds. Everything in the film has been completely LEGO-fied. When a character falls on the ground, LEGO pieces pile up everywhere. When they fall into an ocean, it's an ocean of LEGO. This creates a two-pronged effect for the viewer: on one hand, there's the action that's takes place in the foreground; on the other hand, the movie constantly reminds you of how this world's been constructed. You might think the second prong would distract the viewer from the story that's taking place, but somehow Lord and Miller manage to make it work seamlessly. After all, as the movie eventually reveals to you, there are two stories going on here: the one in the LEGO world and the world outside of the LEGO. How the LEGO is constructed is actually crucial to both stories.
Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is just an average joe who works in construction, but his life is changed forever when he falls down a hole at the construction site and happens upon the "piece of resistance." He passes out, then wakes up only to find himself in police custody with the piece of resistance glued to his back. While being detained by police, Emmet learns of President Business's (Will Ferrell) evil plan to destroy the world by using a super-weapon known as the "Kragle." He soon gets rescued by a woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who believes that he's the chosen one who will save the world, otherwise known as the "Special." Wyldstyle takes him into an entirely different LEGO world so that he can meet the wizard who had foretold the prophecy of the Special, but along the way, she finds out that Emmet is not that special at all. He only knows how to follow the instructions and the most creative idea he could ever think of is a double-decker couch. His lack of creativity is a recurring theme in the film and while it's initially played for laughs, it's also where the film reveals its emotional core. In the midst of all the fast-paced wackiness, The Lego Movie allows time for some very poignant moments without being overtly sentimental, especially in the third act. This isn't just a silly movie, it actually has something to say about the imagination of a child and how it's something we should all cherish as it doesn't last forever. Eventually, they grow up and their Lego collection is simply just their "collection" which completely misses what makes the toys special in the first place. This is a theme that was also covered in the Toy Story movies, but it's done here in a way that feels very fresh. The ending, which I will not reveal, really enriches the movie and basically makes a second viewing a requirement. This is a movie that kids will want to watch over and over; luckily, you will want to as well. The LEGO Movie could also be seen as an allegory for how filmmakers often have to struggle to keep their imagination alive even with constant studio interference. In the film, Emmet is encouraged by his friends to use his imagination in order to help save their world, but President Business wants the entire LEGO world to be kept perfectly in place. He wants everyone to obey him and do things his way. One could easily see Emmet representing the filmmakers with President Business being the unimaginative studio. Of course, we don't know if Phil Lord and Chris Miller actually had to fight to keep their vision in tact with this movie, but it's a battle that filmmakers always have to deal with. Lord and Miller have demonstrated just how fun a movie can be when you throw out the rulebook and just go wherever your mind takes you. The problem with most movies that are based on toys is that they often completely miss the point of what the toys are all about. If you construct a formulaic movie based off Barbie dolls, for example, you are giving kids no reason to come up with stories on their own. The value of toys, especially Legos, is that they require kids to use their imaginations in order to gain any fun out of them. Thanks to The LEGO Movie, kids all over will want to invent their own crazy stories when they play with their LEGO. You can question the ethics behind making a movie just to sell a product, but let's face it, the movie was going to be made whether we wanted it or not. The fact that it turned out this good and has a positive message for kids - that can't be a bad thing, right?
Surprisingly, 80% of the movie was done via computer animation as the cost of actually making a stop-motion animated film with LEGO would have been too great. While that may be disappointing to some, the CG is so photo-realistic that you can hardly tell the difference. The animators have gotten the look, feel, and movement of the LEGO exactly right. There is actually wear and tear on some of the LEGO people. The LEGO Movie was made on a $60 million budget yet it has such an off-the-cuff, anything-goes feel to it that you could easily imagine this being made in somebody's basement. The directors have made this movie with so much energy and ebullience that you will not be able to stop smiling while watching the film. There are so many jokes here for both kids and adults that the funniest line in the movie for me was something no kids picked up. The LEGO Movie also has a great voice cast, which is lead by Chris Pratt, whose good-natured silliness from Parks And Recreation has been brought out in full force here. You also have to love Morgan Freeman's performance as the wizard, who establishes a "wise old man" persona in the beginning then proceeds to subvert our expectations at every turn. Then again, nothing in this film ever plays out as expected. So, yes, Phil Lord and Chris Miller pulled it off. They have managed to make a great movie based on LEGO. They also argue that, as long as your heart's in the right place and you believe in yourself, you could create a fun story out of LEGO too. Although, let's face it, nobody could have made this movie the way Lord and Miller did. They really are the chosen ones.
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Ken writes movie reviews on his blog, kenoncinema.blogspot.com. He currently resides in New York City. Twitter: @keng324