- Movie Rating -

The LEGO Movie (2014)

| February 7, 2014 | 1 Comments

“The LEGO Movie” is a happy and exhilarating ball of fun.  It’s a bright, colorful, quick-witted adventure that stretches the animated form as far as it can possibly go, spinning its characters into other dimensions and other realms.  In short, it does exactly what animation is supposed to do.  It plays around in a magical world but doesn’t simply ground itself in one simple-minded idea.  This is one of those rare homeruns that comes along every once in a great while.  It follows ground-breakers like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Toy Story” in that the animators open the visual canvas to create something really special and distinct.

The story takes place in a world completely constructed out of LEGO, beginning with a breathtaking opening shot that swoops through downtown Brickburg as the happy citizens sing the uber-infectious techno-pop ditty “Everything is Awesome” (a song that will be jammed in your head for the next six months).  We are in the familiar world of the colorful interlock blocks, and here the world is so large that we get cameos by William Shakespeare, Gandalf, Superman, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Abraham Lincoln, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, C-3PO and Shaquille O’Neal.  We visit a pirate world, a cowboy world, a subterranean world and many more.  You know the animators have hit on a burst of genius when they employ Liam Neeson to play a character named Good Cop/Bad Cop.

Our focus zeros in on a nobody, a generic construction worker named Emmett Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) whose world-view is that life is a party, even at work.  He’s happy because every single day he gets to build something new, taking things apart and making them into something else – everything in this world is made of LEGO, so everything can be changed in an instant.

One person who is not happy with the constant changes is President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), a cold-hearted corporate ruler who wants the world to stay the way it is.  He has a secret plan to nail down the blocks permanently.  That’s where Emmett comes in.  Mistaken for “the chosen one”, he is recruited by a counsel called The Master Builders to thwart Business’ plan by building objects that will prevent his evil deeds.  The problem: Emmett has no imagination; he can’t build without an instruction book.  The best he’s come up with so far is a bunk bed couch.

So, surrounded by newfound friends like the wizard Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), a hell-cat named Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) and a very snarky Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) he learns to use his imagination.  That’s part of the spirit of this movie.  It encourages free-form imagination rather than simply sticking to the prescribed instructions, which was always the spirit of the LEGO toy.  Once you’ve build the intended toy, you break it apart and make something else.  The LEGO world presented here is in that spirit.  Every building, every character, and every backdrop is made out of LEGO and it is constantly changing.

The script does the same.  The writers have really worked on this screenplay, allowing it not simply to follow a pre-formed pattern but to move into other realms of imagination while satirizing our real-world dependence on designer coffee, computer gadgets, mechanized music and dimwitted sitcoms (Emmett really loves a one-joke show called “Where are My Pants?”)  Emmett’s world is bland and homogenized and the point of the story is how he opens his mind to except an out-of-the-box form of thinking.

“The LEGO movie” is a breath of fresh air.  In the past two years, animators have been satisfied to tread the safe waters of market-tested brand names and sequels.  Animated films have stopped surprising us because they end up packaged as the same tired interchangeable plots that stay so grounded that they might as well have been live action.  No one gets really inventive anymore.  Unlike previous attempts to cash in on classic toys, like “Battleship”, “G.I. Joe” and the abysmal “Transformers” movies, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller don’t simply pay lip service to the LEGO toy, they have engineered a universe which is constantly evolving as the bricks are broken down and rebuilt into something else.  They create a beautiful, colorful world of imagination and reformation that is a tribute to the endangered spirit of make-believe.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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