For anyone venturing into the new Phil Lord and Chris Miller animated movie is sure to walk away with one thing: Tegan and Sara’s happy anthem, “Everything is Awesome” stuck in the head. Not because it’s super catchy, grating and corny at the same time, (it is all of those things) but because its chorus couldn’t be more accurate of how enjoyable The Lego Movie really is.
It’s stunning that they made a movie about Legos in the first place, but be prepared to watch a surprisingly impressive movie–one that will send that warming feeling in your chest, and importantly, never drags. The long-running toy line encompass seemingly all interests and are now as ubiquitous as books and music of all genres. They include licensed lines like Lord of the Rings, Super-heroes, Star Wars, and Friends designed for young girls to their classic lines of space, castles, and the wild west, and even the advanced building sets like the architecture series or programmable Mindstorms robotics. They even have popular lines that have spawned successful cartoons, video games, theme parks and direct-to-video blu-rays. Surely, the film will do the same and when the kids you know are assembling the vehicles and play-sets inspired by the film, you’ll tolerate it happily. But this is not meant to be a review of how this film will reap in heaps of money for Lego (oh and it will). The brand has always maintained the appeal of an all-ages fascination mixed with wit and charm through all of its products and the film preserves that intangible characteristic that has popularized Lego to much more than just building bricks.
Lord and Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 1 and 2) found a narrative that lassoes all of those users, past and present to spin a tale of adventure, creativity, and building real connections with people through experiences. The star of their story is Emmett (Chris Pratt), a non-descript generic man whose Lego-standard yellow-face is one of the characteristics that cement him as every bit the forgettable follower instead of the leader. A prophecy by master builder Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) claims that a “chosen one” will someday unite all of the realms of the Lego world and save them from Lord Business (Will Ferrell). He is joined by more master builders, who can build anything with their imagination given the parts that surround them, including goth Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), mecha-pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), the perky Unikitty (Alison Brie), and what may be one of the best uses of Batman (Will Arnett) in any film. Seriously, if there’s a scene stealer, it’s the one who dances in the pale moon light.
Business has been duping the citizens in Emmett’s world while policing the other worlds with a good cop/bad cop character voiced by Liam Neeson. His ultimate goal is to glue the world intact and thus a resistance builds in the other hidden corners of the Lego world. Emmett must break out of his mold and find his potential and fulfill his destiny. It does sound like a mass-produced plot, but the Lego flare elevates the end product into something memorable. There’s also a slew of cameos and voices of who’s who that help keep the inevitable multiple viewings fresh and the potential for a sequel is ripe.
There are underlying themes in the story that surface organically, set up by Emmett’s insistence to construct everything according to the instructions – an antithesis to the master builders’ mantra, who create anything out of their surroundings, mimicking the variety of real Lego users. Another is a jab at the ultra-serious Lego creators who use their homes as mausoleums to display their creations like Michaelangelo’s David, which is nothing to judge at, but maintaining that pure vision is challenging once that person has children of their own. As long as those kind of Lego builders have a sense of humor about themselves, they’ll enjoy this film too.
Visually there’s a lot to marvel at. The animators deserve the highest regard, as it’s a seamless mixture of stop motion and CG. The introduction to Emmett’s typical day will astound audiences who will witness so many little moving parts in the proper scale of the average Lego mini figure. To build one large complex Lego structure with instructions is an achievement unto itself, but the magnitude of the builds is breathtaking–and then to animate it? It’s something to behold and as an amateur builder myself, I felt unworthy but man did I eat up everything this film had to offer and the longer Lego has been a part of your life, the better this film plays.
Unless you’re still frozen from the latest polar vortex, the fun factor here is just the thing to melt the butter in your popcorn. It reaches that high bar that’s been missing from recent family-oriented and Pixar releases and The Lego Movie does for Legos what Wreck-It Ralph and Toy Story 2 did with the world video games and toys respectably, by reinforcing that bridge between all the generations of users through the decades. In other words, kids and adults are going to be glad they see this film.