Wow. After a long month of January with the only good movies available being the ones still hanging around from last year, 2014 finally has its first great film with the arrival of the highly anticipated The Lego Movie.
The film looked fun from everyone the trailer was showing off but I worried going into it that it might fall for the same trap that Wreck-It Ralph managed to narrowly avoid. Were they just going to make a well-animated but empty movie centered on nostalgia references and surprise cameos from famous heroes in Lego form?
I mean, just look at this thing. God (or whom I thought was God but is really just an old Wizard voiced by Morgan Freeman…in other words, God), Batman, Gandalf, Superman, Abraham Lincoln, the Ninja Turtles, and Wonder Woman (think about that one for a second) were all going to be in this movie. And while only a couple of those actually turn out to be important to the story, the story itself, thankfully, is presented in a fresh and impeccable form. This is one of the best films you will probably see all year, and yes, I realize how bizarre it is that I’m telling you this in early February.
It’s Inception, Star Wars, and The Matrix all rolled into one hysterical ride of a movie…with Batman. Yet beneath it all, it’s a movie about how exciting and important the general medium of fantasy can be when it takes its most wholesome kid-friendly form and is treated as the cartoon that it actually is. The animation is perfect – deliberately toned down a notch from pure fluidity of motion to keep with the tone of Legos themselves.
Our protagonist is Emmett (Chris Pratt), a plain-faced construction worker in the Lego universe – a corporatist megalomania run by Lord Business (Will Ferrell) – who lives, works, and follows instructions exactly like everyone else. One day, after work, he finds a mcguffin by accident, is told that he is “the special” foretold by a prophecy, and must fulfill it & save everyone by joining up with a resistance group of master builders – whose creativity spawns from their mind and not the pages of a manual – to stop Lord Business from unleashing a weapon called the Kragle and destroying the universe.
It doesn’t sound like much from that description, but I can tell you right now that about half of that is a lie. Am I going to spoil the rest? Kids, you couldn’t pay me to do that, and you will not believe what you see later on.
A pop culture metaparody not unlike Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this film builds, through one bladder bursting gag after another, an all too familiar dystopian world where the sense of the individual is so suppressed, some people like Emmett don’t even miss it. Yet the power to use the Force (…sorry, “create”) like the Jedi (…sorry, “master builders”) is available to any whose sense of individuality is strong enough to extract ideas from.
It’s pretty easy to see the same basic methods of creativity that made its spiritual predecessor awesome being applied for The Lego Movie, which (not by coincidence) is written and directed by the same two people – Phil Lord & Chris Miller. Yet here, the purpose is not to imitate the same success, but to build from it and go bigger. I can’t predict how much of an impact this film will have in the future, but it’s a miracle that an original creation was not only made but turned out to be this awesome.
It should be said, however, that like Cloudy Chance Meatballs, it’s got a couple of the same problems. Some of the details about the mechanics and rules of how the world works and how things tend to happen sometimes get forgotten about or tossed under the rug, the very beginning before Emmett’s introduction is a little thin, and it’s occasionally a little TOO on-the-nose. But these are hardly things a kid is going to fret about, especially when the movie is this good and this fun. Who knew the guy who plays Ron Swanson could voice a pirate like that? Scratch that. Who knew the guy who plays G.O.B. could voice Batman like that?! Seriously, it’s even more awesome than the trailer hints at.
What we’ve ultimately got is a thrilling action-adventure comedy piece with great characters and better animation, all making for a film that’s all about some of the very ideas that drove Legos themselves to become as popular as they are and how the childlike inspiration that came from Legos is the very same kind of inspiration that created all of your favorite things ever. If you think this film looks silly, you’re the person I’d most recommend to give this film a chance because it won’t disappoint you.
It might even blow your mind.
The Good: The voice acting, the action, and the music.
The Better: The characters, the wide scope of parody, the surprise twists.
The Awesome: The animation, the resonance, and the sheer fact that it’s just so…much…fun.