The Lego Movie
US (2014) Dirs. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
I can still hear the audible groans from when the announcement came that Hollywood was going to make a film based on those fiddly interlocking plastic blocks created by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1949. With Tinsel Town relying on remakes, reboots, comic book adaptations and tired old franchises had a new low been hit with a film based around such a fairly non-descript toy?
Amazingly, no. In fact by embracing the basic concept of the unlimited world of possibilities Lego kits have afforded kids for generations to explore and unleash their imaginations, the unthinkable has not only become thinkable but hugely enjoyable to boot!
In the Lego universe the wizard Vitruvius an ancient prophecy tells of “The Special” will rise and find the Piece Of Resistance to prevent the evil Lord Business from destroying the world with the dangerous weapon “Kragle”. Eight and a half years later an ordinary and unremarkable construction worker named Emmett following the instructions manual to the letter as he goes about his day. One day after work Emmett spots a young woman rummaging around the construction site but falls through a hole where he is compelled to touch a glowing red brick.
When Emmett regains consciousness he finds himself in police custody with the red brick attached to his back. He is saved from the schizophrenic good Cop/bad Cop by the young woman from earlier, calling herself Wyldstyle and assuming Emmett is The Special, only to learn he clearly isn’t. But since he has the Piece Of Resistance Wyldstyle takes Emmett to meet Vitruvius anyway to fulfil the prophecy – if he can.
The plot for this film would always be under the greatest scrutiny given the characterless nature of this construction toy invention but since the target audience is likely top be youngsters then obviously the plot can’t be anything too taxing. Possibly the biggest strength The Lego Movie possesses is its ability to laugh at itself and be as self-referential as possible and this decision to not take itself too seriously proves from the opening frames to be a perspicacious one.
As you may expect the main story is your typical “set the young ones a good example” moral heavy yarn about believing in oneself and letting your imagination run free so one day you too can make a contribution to the world. However there is an underlying satire about consumerism and conforming to inhibiting despotic rules stifling creativity and freedom of thought. Deep stuff perhaps but neatly wrapped up in a completely accessible package.
Ramming home with a fabulous knowing wink how us chaps are notorious for not reading the instructions, Emmett needs to follow the Lego guide book for every single step of his day, even showering and getting dressed! By doing everything to a routine he seals his fate as a bland nobody whereas The Special which Vitruvius speaks of a Super Builder – a maverick who can create whatever they like instructions be damned. This leads us to the introduction of such noted freethinkers as Batman, Wonder Woman, Gandalf and, er, Benny the 80’s spaceman, something Emmett the uninspired uber conformist most definitely is not.
While kids will rejoice in recognising all the various franchises Lego is affiliated with – and there are many represented here to great effect – being brought to life, the adults are indulged with the witty banter and similar inside jokes born out of being parents to kids with Lego rather than their own long forgotten personal experiences. The puns, as bad as they are, the spoofing of the characters – like Gandulf and Dumbledor being mistaken for each other – are just the tip of the quick fire gag iceberg on offer here.
However there is a possibility that some may see this is as a 100 minute infomercial for the extensive Lego range, and let’s face it as product placements goes this is the most blatant exercise of that! Things take a rather unusual turn in the third act, which may or may not be genius depending on your point of view, which threatens to complete the whole sales pitch concern with a sly, last minute attempt at sentimental manipulation. It’s certainly presents a compelling argument it has to be said, but cynics beware to not let it ruin your enjoyment of the film thus far.
We knew bringing the little chaps and the intricate construction sequences to life would be a task for CGI animators but they’ve delivered a wonderful swerve by rendering the entire production in the style of stop motion animation. For those of us of a certain vintage this will bring back fond memories of the stop motion TV adverts of yesteryear and the film is better of for it. Naturally the CGI creeps in for the most difficult scenes such as the flying and rapid reconstructions but overall the animation is true to the old school techniques.
A host of top names make up the voice cast including Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson and they all seem to be having huge fun. Freeman truly takes advantage of being unfettered from his serious gravitas roles while Neeson is unrecognisable as the two faced cop.
A sequel is planned for 2017 based on the success of this film which might repeat it or even eclipse it but the effect may be diluted as a result. The Lego Movie is an interesting film in that it fits in nicely with the Toy Storys and Wreck-It Ralphs of the world while carving out its own niche.
Overall The Lego Movie delivers a nice balance of escapist entertainment and sardonic subversion in a fun packed thrill ride to keep kids of all ages quiet for a while – and you won’t have to pick up the pieces afterwards!