MOVIE REVIEW: The LEGO Movie
"THE LEGO MOVIE"-- 4 STARS
Come on. Who doesn't love LEGOs? They are a hall of fame-level toy for the ages. Those little plastic bricks have something for everyone. The anal perfectionists of society can buy gorgeous character-themed sets to create replica masterpieces. The free-wheelers of the bunch can put the directions aside and tackle endless open-ended possibilities from a random pile of shapes and sizes. Both groups get success and creativity. Both get their dose of wonderful adventure.
Let's just say it now. There are not many greats to choose from, but there is no more perfect merger between a product or toy and a movie than "The LEGO Movie." No video game movie is this good. No animated or live-action "Transformers," "G.I. Joe," or "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie can touch "The LEGO Movie." This film is an absolute blast and has something for everyone.
The writing and directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller of the "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "21 Jump Street" franchises have brought their talents to a deft and gorgeous combination of flawless stop-motion and CGI animation to bring the vast world of LEGOs to life on the big screen. This is a rare case where the writing power matches the visual power in an animated film. Like the infectious theme song says, everything is awesome.
The dueling powers in this adventure are a sort-of prophet named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and a maniacal villain named Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Vitruvius represents open creativity and leads the "Master Builders," characters who work without instructions to create anything their imagination can tap into. He lost a battle 8 1/2 years ago over the "Piece of Resistance" that could stop Lord Business's ultimate weapon, the "Kragle" and his master plans for conformity and complete control over how things are built and made. After the battle, the Piece of Resistance was lost, the Master Builders were forced into exile, and Lord Business took over the civilian Lego realms under the guise of "President Business," backed by a robot army of "micro-managers" and a rabid police force led by Bad Cop (Neeson).
In defeat, Vitruvius prophetized that a "Special" with a "face of yellow" would some day find the Piece of Resistance that can stop the Kragle, become a Master Builder, and defeat Lord Business. That unlikely hero emerges as Emmet Brickowski, a sociable, but ordinary construction worker voiced by Chris Pratt. He thrives on and enjoys the complete life of instructions and fitting in until he stumbles upon the Piece or Resistance and is thrust into the role of savior. One of Vitruvius's top allies, the sexy and mysterious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) rescues Emmet from Bad Cop and takes him behind his ordinary world of Bricksburg and brings him before the other Master Builders, which include colorful roster filled out by the likes of Batman (Will Arnett), 80's Space Guy Benny (Charlie Day), Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie), and the pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman).
The characters are as endless as the pop culture references. Where other movies would throw these gags together with nothing to bind them together, "The LEGO Movie" works because the product placement and social commentary of playing with toys is the point of the story. This movie embraces the top pillars of what LEGO stands for as a brand and as a creative force. The cameos and character expansions that have renewed Lego's popularity over the last two decades are just part of the fun to the bigger picture of what these little bricks can do in anyone's hands, both as a physical toy and in a video game.
This is all rendered beautifully with an astoundingly detailed world-building that is true to its title toy. Take the immense background and technical detail of a Pixar film, with its layers and depth, and triple it to get "The LEGO Movie." There is so much more going on that what you see in the trailers. It's more than just the puns and vehicle chases. It can get a long, repetitive, and manic by the end, but it's far from a critical flaw. This film won't tug heartstrings to the level of a Disney classic, but it has big messages to share for children and parents and nails them. Like the toys themselves, there is truly something for everyone, young and old.
Hand "The LEGO Movie" the "Best Animated Feature" Oscar for next year already. It doesn't matter what Disney and Pixar put out this year. The race is over. Pack it up and go home. Behind accolades, Warner Bros. and LEGO themselves are going to make a fortune off of this film.
LESSON #1: NOT EVERYTHING IN LIFE SHOULD OR WILL COME WITH INSTRUCTIONS-- Most of the meat and potatoes of these lessons were alluded to in the review, but let's spell them out. Emmet occupies a life and profession where nothing can operate without unison effort and instructions. The world of Bricksburg is beautiful and perfectly planned out because of that effort. Things work great and there's nothing wrong with that, but not everything in life should or will come with instructions. Imperfection and randomness is OK and commonly accepted. Spontaneity and unplanned events are good for you and are going to happen.
LESSON #2: THE BEAUTY OF PERSONAL, OPEN-ENDED CREATIVITY-- The other aforementioned strength of LEGOs is on full display in the movie. The good guys are the Master Builders who can MacGyver wild and brilliant things out of random pieces and parts on the spot and on the fly. They seek to break the uniformity of instructions that rule Lord Business's world in that fight for the personal freedom of creativity. Imperfection here is embraced rather than frowned up. Every new idea is a good idea is most cases, just as it should be.
LESSON #3: CONFORMITY ISN'T THE ONLY WAY TO FIT IN AND SUCCEED-- In the end, "The LEGO Movie" is talking about happiness and finding pleasure in whatever pursuit you have. Too many people, in and out of the movie, think that conformity is the best and sometimes only way to fit in and succeed. However, we all know that the world is equally helped and shaped by the radical thinkers and their ideas. We all contribute and all get to bring our own strengths and abilities to the masses in our own way. Sometimes that doesn't have be like your neighbor's.