Review Date: 02/27/2014
Rating: 4/5 Peanuts.
In a Nutshell:
Everything is Awesome! In this heartwarming tale of personal growth, self-confidence and pure celebration of daring to be different.
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t going to see The Lego Movie until I discovered that it held a 96% on Rottentomatoes.com because it looked like a pretty silly but vapid film aimed at the A.D.D. riddled 6-12 demographic. Truth be told, there’s a good bit of that scattered, manic, twitch-tastic animation that you would expect in a children’s movie, and more than a few childish gags that fall flat to an adult audience. And that’s perfectly fine for a film full of 90’s-era children’s characters built out of animated building blocks. The wonderful thing about The Lego Movie though is that it knows full well that parents will be accompanying their children to the theaters, and it has plenty of high-concept material and pure throwback nostalgia to keep them interested.
At its heart, The Lego Movie is a story about creativity vs. conformity, as a non-descript construction man named Emmet sets out on a quest to save the Lego-Universe from the plot of the evil Lord Business – voiced by an enthusiastic Will Ferrell in a performance harkening back to his days as Mugatu – before all is lost. This being a children’s movie, Emmet’s quest is instantly recognizable as “The Hero’s Journey” ripped from the pages of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, as Emmet answers the call to adventure and assumes the prophesized mantle of “The Special”, a master builder of extreme import. Archetypical though it may be there are sufficient twists and turns throughout the flick, and more than a few clever side-bars, which keep the story interesting and sufficiently unpredictable.
Puns abound in the writing, such as a play on words involving the all-powerful “Kragle” which fans of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will undoubtedly recognize, and there are more pop-culture references than you could possibly pick up on even after a dozen viewings. However, it is the simple, direct and all powerful message that deep down anyone and everyone is special and capable of amazing and wonderful accomplishments if they put their mind to it that helps anchor the moral center of the film. Emmet’s go-getter attitude and willingness to literally cross the boundaries of reality (don’t ask) provide a hero worthy of children looking up to, and it is truly saying something when the faceless everyman is capable of accomplishing wonders the likes of which Batman, Superman and even Abraham Lincoln cannot manage. There’s also an amazingly unpredictable plot-twist towards the end of the film which actually makes perfect sense, and helps drive home the moralistic narrative better than it would read on paper. Seriously, M. Night Shyamalan should be taking notes.
A plethora of celebrities lend their voices to this film, including Chris Pratt as Emmet, the overenthusiastic protagonist, the always amazing Morgan Freeman as Vetruvius (a wizard, I think), the hyper-active Charlie Day as a generic 80’s spaceman, a surprisingly funny Liam Neeson playing the split personalities of Good Cop and Bad Cop, and Will Arnett in an amazing portrayal of Batman among many, many others. From among this star studded cast Arnett, Ferrell and Pratt are the clear standouts, throwing themselves into their characters and breathing life into their plastic little hearts.
Perhaps the most understated and yet absolutely crucial element of the film is the animation, which renders a glorious 3D world built entirely out of Lego bricks on a scale my 8 year old Lego building self could never imagine. In all seriousness, the animation alone is worth the ticket price, and it was absolutely awe-inspiring to watch the various “Master Builders” scan, analyze and transform their environments around them in order to create the tools they needed to defeat Lord Business. I have to admit, when Morpheus told Neo that “The One” could “transform the Matrix as he saw fit” I had in mind something more like The Lego Movie’s Master Builders than the Wachowski's version of Superman that we were given, and it was awesome to see that vision finally realized on screen.
Ultimately, The Lego Movie won’t be for everyone, and I have no doubt that many will dismiss it as childish nonsense. To be fair, I almost did so myself and while it is childish, it certainly isn’t nonsense. At the end of the day, The Lego Movie delivers the right message to the right audience while also maintaining a broader appeal, which is a herculean task in and of itself, but that it could bring more than a few smiles to even my own jaded heart makes me declare it pure cinematic magic.