Review: The Lego Movie

LEGO

If you grew up in western civilization since the midway point of the 20th century and Legos somehow failed to enter your life, then your childhood was all the poorer without them. For children, they are the type of toy that engages two vital schools of thought: following instructions and using your imagination. Both are separate concepts, but critical in teaching kids as they develop. On face value, the conception of solely centering Legos into a film feels like a cheat: Yet another studio venture capitalizing on childhood for profits. However, The Lego Movie proves itself to be far above corporate exploitation, and with vibrant visuals and boundless energy, its somewhat conventional story finds room to surprise and move.

Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) wakes up every morning to an awesome life. He follows every rule and instruction he’s given, from breathing in and out, to putting on clothes and going to work. His disposition is the same as everyone else, which is no coincidence that the hit song on the radio is “Everything is Awesome.” Indeed, everything is seemingly utopian in Emmet’s life, but President Business (Will Ferrell) has other plans. As foretold by the prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a “Special” Master Builder will arise to do away with President Business’ evil plans. At the end of a long workday, Emmett stumbles upon a piece of red plastic unlike any he has seen before, and is suddenly whisked away by a mysterious woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). Emmet is brought before a council of Master Builders as the foretold “Special,” but when it becomes clear that he is just ordinary, he must find what it means to be special within himself.

It should be said upfront that The Lego Movie is essentially telling the hero’s journey as its tale, so the overall structure of the film is certainly familiar. However, as it plays within that structure, it finds interesting ways to upend expectations. Oftentimes as it transitions from one sequence to the next, it takes asides into comic relief bits and mostly defies being too obvious in its storytelling. Although its primary audience is of the tyke variety, the jokes in the film are of all kinds and not simply playing to the lowest common denominator. The film’s biggest risk comes in its third act, and though its surprise could have simply functioned for gimmickry, it actually informs and elevates the whole narrative. The voice ensemble is all well cast here and there are a plethora of popular characters that pop up in brick form: Batman, Superman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, and dozens of others populate the Lego universe. While the ensemble is massive, the film does right by keeping its attention towards Emmet.

What really makes The Lego Movie stand out are its candy colored visuals. The film was clearly done digitally, but directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller respect the literal physical limitations set on these plastic characters. Therefore, all of the characters’ jerky movements look as if they’ve been handled in stop motion. Also, since there are so many possibilities involved in the Lego universe, there are dozens of locations, including the urban city, the wild west, and a hilarious medieval locale called Middle Zealand, plus several more. Because of the CGI work, Lord and Miller have the freedom to go wild with their imaginations in the action sequences. Many of these are so chocked full of bricks and movement that it can feel overwhelming, especially given that there seem to be at least ten set pieces. However, despite its eccentricities, The Lego Movie finds a sweet spot in communicating its themes of both fitting in and maintaining individuality. Even though it clearly maintains a distance from being an outright marketing ploy, The Lego Movie is quite often so fun, one can’t help but pour through long ago dismantled sets and begin dreaming anew.

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~ by romancinema on February 9, 2014.

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