On my sixth birthday, my big gift was the Lego “Fire Breathing Fortress Castle”. I still remember my “Nintendo 64 Kid” reaction. I had just gotten into Legos and while I had the occasional “Ice Tunnelator” or “Pirate Lookout”, it was my first full set. My Dad played a crucial role in helping me match the box art but the pieces soon made it into the family Lego bin to be used as needed. The Lego Movie takes place in that bin from our childhood.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have incorporated the Lego aesthetic with the sense of humor they first brought to the scene with “Clone High” and incorporated that with the same emotional depth that made 21 Jump Street such a pleasant surprise. Credit also has to be given to the Lego corporation and Warner Bros. who allowed Miller and Lord the freedom with their countless licenses.
The film follows Emmet (Chris Pratt) an enthusiastically average construction worker who lives his life following directions for both work and life. The instructions are handed down by President Business (Will Ferrell) who runs the country through a corporation that controls every aspect of the world. There is only one song and one television show and both are massive hits. Emmet’s world is turned upside down when he meets the beautiful Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and finds a mysterious brick that will dismantle President Business’ reign of control over the world after joining a group of rebels called “Master Builders.”
The plot borrows a lot from traditional science-fiction fare but applies Lego’s in creative ways. The Matrix stuck out to me, particularly watching scenes where the Master Builders see random pieces and build something new off the top of their head in the same way Neo sees the code of his false world. The script even goes out of its way to make fun of this – instead of “The Chosen One,” our heroes refer to Emmet as “The Special.” There are some elements that don’t carry over as well, particularly the romantic plot between Emmet and Wyldstyle that doesn’t address the same level of parody as other instances. Thankfully the film finds its pathos in ways I won’t spoil here.
The performances are excellent all-around. The movie officially kicks off 2014 as Pratt’s big year with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this summer. On the surface, his voice work comes off as generic because that’s the character but he plays enthusiasm and a “gee-whiz” persona that he has developed as Andy on “Parks and Recreation.” Though here his character’s simple-mindedness comes from naiveté, rather than stupidity.
Both Ferrell and Banks are great as well though Banks isn’t given much in terms of the script and her arch is the less meaningful for it. Ferrell on the other hand is great as the villain. He proved he does very well in the role in the underrated Megamind. Unlike that performance though, his transformation is much more sudden causing a wooden performance in an otherwise powerful scene.
The brilliance in the other performances is one of casting and writing as much as anything else. Morgan Freeman as the Obi-Wan Kenobi character is the perfect role for him, as is Nick Offerman as Metal Beard, a brilliantly designed mecha-pirate with shark on one arm and dual-canons on the other. Will Arnett is also excellent as a parody interpretation of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. There are so many superb smaller-supporting roles that it will be entirely up to the audience to pick their favorite – mine is Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern respectively.
Like a the bucket of random Lego pieces that create this world. Every random piece of the film from the writing, casting, performances and aesthetic comes together to form a truly special, greater whole.
What did you think of The Lego Movie? Is it the best you’ve seen so for this year or has something else stood out. Let me know in the comments below or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter at @tylerlyon.