Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, with Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman
Written and Directed By: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
For the most part, The LEGO Movie is clever and entertaining while featuring some of the most stunning and inventive animation ever committed to film – so why is it also a little disappointing? Probably because there are too many instances when the filmmaker’s forget that there are also adults in the audience. Less story-driven than it should be and featuring too much LEGO exploding action, at times the film veers dangerously close into “watching somebody else playing a video game” territory. It never gets that bad which is a testament to the film’s dazzling animation – but the script is lacking nonetheless. However, with its steady mix of heart and satire, there is still much to admire about The LEGO Movie.
Aside from this film, writer/director’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have two other franchises under their belt – the family friendly Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 1 & 2, and the crude R-rated action comedy 21 Jump Street, as well as its upcoming sequel 22 Jump Street. Lord and Miller are shrewd and irreverent guys who subvert cinematic conventions and it’s thanks to this comedic self-awareness that they’ve managed to make a film based on a building block better then it has any right to be. Credit also goes to the inventive animation which isn’t quite like anything you’ve seen before – it looks almost like a hybrid of a stop-motion, claymation and CGI, all accentuated beautifully in 3D.
Keeping with a theme of satirizing cinema, the main storyline is something right out of The Matrix. The evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) is dictator of the LEGO universe, keeping everyone living an ordinary and routine life – one that construction worker Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) doesn’t know can be different until resistance fighter Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) introduces him to a new LEGO realm outside of the corporate grind he lives in. In this new world he meets Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a blind wizard who tells Emmet that he’s “The Special” and as the prophecy goes, the only one who can free the LEGO universe from Lord Business.
The plot leads the way for an animated action-adventure that pays homage to such blockbusters as Star Wars, Transformers, Independence Day and The Lord of the Rings – yet at the same time has a merit of its own, working as more than just a spoof. Just as 21 Jump Street was a comedy that made fun of action movies while being a legitimate action movie – The LEGO Movie toys with (no pun intended) the Hollywood blockbuster, all the while working as a Hollywood blockbuster… just one starring toys.
While the script is often witty, there isn’t a whole lot of funny dialogue or one-liners – instead the movie is humorous without being gut-busting. There are plenty of inspired gags but they’re more of the “smile in appreciation” kind then of the “laugh-out-loud” variety.
It’s kind of amazing just how many pop culture figures LEGO has the licensing to depict – the most prominent existing character in the film being Batman as voiced by Will Arnett. Arnett does his best raspy Christian Bale impression while also being the arrogant and clueless character whom he typically plays. In fact, most of the voice actors knowingly lampoon their usual onscreen personas – with Morgan Freeman as a wise old sage, Chris Pratt as a bumbling average Joe, Elizabeth Banks as a snarky ball-buster, and Charlie Day as a well-meaning but mindless stooge. The standout here though is Ferrell who seems to be having the most fun finding his inner supervillain. 21 Jump Street’s Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum lend cameo voices to The Green Lantern and Superman, respectively, the relationship between the two being one of the film’s funnier running gags.
No spoilers, but there’s a third-act plot twist that’s rather odd, yet credit is due to the filmmaker’s for going for something different. It’s a plot device that may divide audiences, but it happens to work pretty nicely in getting across the ultimate theme of the movie. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it – and it opens a whole other discussion on the metaphysical realm of the LEGO universe.
Ultimately, The LEGO Movie is about embracing your individuality and imagination – that everyone has a quality which makes them special. It’s a fine message and this is smarter than your average family flick, but the filmmaker’s insistence on delivering non-stop mayhem prevents the story from being as satisfying as the more layered Pixar movies. It’s frustrating, because with a little more discipline in the narrative department and a punch-up in jokes, this could have been something really special. As is, The LEGO Movie is a visual marvel and celebration of creativity that somehow manages to overwhelm and underwhelm at the same time.