Hands up who thought The Lego Movie would turn out good? I didn’t. I saw the charm in the initial trailer, but, kind of expected the film to end up being one of those kids films that end up being a series of dumb jokes wrapped around the most flimsy of stories. I mostly expected it to be a huge advert for Lego toys. Well, it is that. I’m pretty sure many people that have left the film have gone and purchased a Lego set shortly after. I probably would have if I had a spare few thousand pounds to buy what sets I could with that. So, like, one minifig and a small car, right? The Lego Movie represents everything that I should hate about films aimed at children. Its humour is puerile, its filled with nonsense, its a marketing ploy, it has that one catchy song that won’t fecking LEAVE MY HEAD!!!… It’s so frigging awesome. Click the link.
In The Lego Movie the ruler of the world, President Business (Will Ferrell), has possession of a relic that will allow him to complete a nefarious plan. A ancient prophecy says that, one day, a master builder will find a strange and unique piece, dubbed the Piece of Resistance, that he will use to stop the relic from being utilised. 8 and a half years after President Business steals this relic a unremarkable, very forgettable and incredibly meh Lego construction worker named Emmett (Chris Pratt) stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance and is soon whisked away by a master builder named Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) to fulfil the previously mentioned prophecy and stop President Business from destroying everything that makes the Lego world awesome.
The world Emmett lives in may appear bright and cherry but it’s world under extreme control. Everyone lives by a routine set out for them in their personal instruction books. Emmett wakes up, follows his instructions as precisely as possible and feels that he enjoys his everyday life. He watches the same TV show as everyone else, he likes all the same food as everyone else and he especially enjoys the only song on the radio, “Everything is Awesome”. Which you’ve likely hears about 4,000 times before even seeing the film. Within a few minutes of the film starting you’ll realise what the central message will be. That don’t need to follow others and pre-set rules. That you can live your life your way. That creativity is to be encouraged and not hidden away. Then you’ll notice the other thread. That everyone is special no matter how normal they seem. No matter how much of a blank slate they are they have something special about themselves that they can use.
Emmett confronts how mind-numbingly average he is as the film progresses. You’ll find yourself amazed that you’re connecting with a little plastic Lego man as his fears of being forgettable are presented to him by the Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). There’s a number of moments in this film where it suddenly becomes genuinely heartfelt. These aren’t the forced emotional content to tick off the “has sad scene” tick box either. These are actual well written, well directed and effective emotional moments. I’m going to avoid spoilers in this review as I honestly feel it would be detrimental to know where this story heads. All I’ll say is, and I am not exaggerating, the final act of the film adds a layer of context, of thematics and the sort of cinematic storytelling that works on multiple levels and, as such, elevates the film to an exceptionally high level. I am not kidding. The Lego Movie brushes against the bottom of being an actual, honest to goodness, masterpiece. The final act itself is a masterful stroke of genius.
So the film has two central themes that are pretty standard for a kids film. It, of course, brings along the usual “with friends by your side anything is possible” trope and also manages to make commentary on how play is to be encouraged. This film is basically doing parenting for you. The fact it nails each theme and idea is quite a feat. One that likely wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the incredible pace it keeps up. How it maintains the pace without ever tiring I don’t know. How it does that and still manages to hit the right emotional notes is some sort of act of wizardry. I went into the film not really being aware of who was behind it. The directors are credited as Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have a knack of confounding expectations by directing films that are far better than they first seem. I then noticed Chris McKay was one of the editors. This explains so much. Chris McKay, if you are not aware, is the director of much of Robot Chicken. Well, there’s your fast paced humour and breakneck pacing. Looking back over the film I’m pretty much convinced he did a little more than just edit. There’s a cameo sequence which is almost entirely a Robot Chicken sketch, just minus the swears. These three men have (pardon the pun) constructed a most excellently crated work.
The animation and art departments are going to win some awards. Never has plastic been rendered so perfectly from inside a computer. They’ve gone for a realistically textured style but not limited themselves to the restraints of what range of motion a real Lego figure is capable of. The character’s motions allow them to bend in places for more articulate moments, such as anything requiring smaller actions. But that’s not to say the characters are animated in a traditional manner. Any time there is some pace required, or if it’ll be comically more effective, the characters are animated in a manner similar to how you’d expect a stop motion Lego animation to look. The result is something akin to a combination of a fan made Lego animation and Toy Story. I realise that is a huge gap so picture it like this, a character leaps or falls in 4 frames but emotes in 30. These styles, that should clash, meld together to create something truly unique.
As I’ve said, I do not wish to delve into spoilers regarding the final act. Maybe I’ll write something about it when the film has been around for a while. I realise it would likely take a lot of convincing on my part to prove to you that The Lego Movie is this legit. The best thing I can suggest is that you grab a child, preferably one of your own, and take them to see this film. They’ll laugh. You’ll laugh. Everyone will laugh. But best of all you will have witnessed a actual film that isn’t holding back. That, whilst relying on common tropes, isn’t presenting them in a common manner. A film that is honest in its intent to provide the whole family with enjoyment whilst also evoking what it means to be a child. For the kids they’ll enjoy the silly humour and action scenes, especially anything involving Batman, and will be struck by the connections made between characters in the final act as being something they’ll likely recognise from home. For parents they’ll be reminded how fun just playing and being creative can be. Maybe it’ll encourage them to spend more time playing with their kids. That can’t be a bad thing. In the end, both the children and the adults watching this film will have seen something that will connect, and possibly, stay with them. I can’t believe I am giving a rave review to a 100 minute long advert for Lego, but there it is. Go see it.