My ambivalence toward kids’ movies is well-documented. I have no problem with them, per se; however, they do all share many similar traits. They often feel like one endless structure of interconnected pieces—formulaic pablum that could as easily put me to sleep as charm me. How ironic that the first family movie I’ve enjoyed in ages is one based on a children’s toy made up of interconnected pieces.
“The Lego Movie” is one of those weird surprises—a film that on paper feels like the biggest cash-grab since Mattel and Mars Bar’s “Quick Energy Chocobot Hour.” It’s the popular children’s toy that everybody loves, transformed into a movie sure to get kids all worked up and frothing at the mouth while their parents endure an attention-span-killing gauntlet. While I can’t argue that “The Lego Movie” is sometimes an assault on both the eyes and ears, it has endearing charm and obsessively entertains.
The movie has a unique sense of style, a kind of minimalist magic that makes me think of the old Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated Christmas specials. The entire visual presentation has a low-fi appeal that feels creatively antithetical to the high-gloss computer-animated movies plaguing the local cineplex. This feels more like the kind of cannabis-inspired shenanigans found on a late-night block of Adult Swim.
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a typical guy living in Lego City. He tries to get along and live by the rules, steadfastly following the instructions to fit in. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. His unbridled enthusiasm is met with a shrug from his fellow citizens.
He works his job and sings a happy song, but he’s very much alone in this world. It turns out the world doesn’t have a whole lot of time left as the villainous Lord Business (Will Ferrell) is going to destroy it on Taco Tuesday. He’s a despotic would-be dictator, who’s trying to bring order to a universe where imagination can build anything. With an army of Lego robots and a tube of Krazy Glue, he plans to freeze everything in place.
Emmett discovers he might be part of a grand destiny to control “la pièce de résistance.” Soon enough, Emmet is travelling to different Lego worlds to assemble the resistance and help prevent the world from being frozen.
The plot makes up a standard boilerplate kids’ movie—an excuse to get the characters from point A to point B. It’s the flawless and downright hysterical execution that makes the movie an absolute gem.
This is the funniest movie I’ve seen in forever. The jokes come at rapid-fire, like a machine gun of non-stop one-liners. The material benefits greatly from an absolutely amazing cast of actors supplying the voices. It comes with spot-on comedic performances from actors like Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Ferrell. But there’s an entire other layer of genius going on here, with amazing turns by legitimate actors like Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman. Special consideration has to be given to Will Arnett, who does the most mind-blowing take on Batman ever committed to any medium.
This is the kind of movie that deserves to make a billion dollars. It navigates between hilarity and heartfelt perfectly, with a kind of deftness that eludes so many other films in this genre. It takes everything fun about Legos and makes it into a poignant, little story about the importance of using imagination. So many movies like this end up being poorly assembled stories made as an excuse to sell more toys—like “Transformers” or “Battleship.” Each contained more corporate synergy than capturing what makes the toys so special in the first place. “The Lego Movie” does a surprising job of showing what’s so awesome about Legos. They create a both fun and touching story—a total surprise from start to finish.
The Lego Movie
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks and Craig Berry