- Special Features
Blogs & Columns
- Fun & Games
In recent years it seems like any property with a recognizable name is fair game for Hollywood to turn into a blockbuster hit. Sometimes it works out and other times it’s less than successful. Battleship, anyone? I’m happy to say that The Lego Movie is a big, big success.
Writer-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord have a proven track record with this type of project and it’s clear they they understand that you can’t just create something mediocre, slap a recognizable name on it, and suddenly that makes it better.
In Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, they took a simple children's book and expanded on it while keeping the core themes of the book intact. Their 21 Jump Street reboot/update took an existing idea in a new direction and mined the concept for comedy instead of taking it at face value. Their ability to tap into the spirit of a property, and their understanding of different genre trappings, as well as how to turn them on their head, makes The Lego Movie a hilarious and heartfelt triumph of a movie.
It all starts with Chris Pratt as Emmet Brickowski, an extraordinarily ordinary Lego minifigure just living his life as a construction worker and trying to fit in with all the other minifigures. Pratt lets Emmet’s positive attitude shine through and manages to make Emmet sound like a simple and straightforward guy without letting him sound dumb, despite all the jokes made about Emmet’s supposedly empty brain. Rounding out the cast are Will Ferrell as the evil Lord Business, Elizabeth Banks as the tough and tech-savvy Wyldstyle, and Morgan Freeman as the wizard Vitruvius.
Freeman is funnier than he’s been in a long time as Emmet’s mentor and guide, with a deadpan delivery to many of his lines that works perfectly given Freeman’s iconic voice. Banks is just as funny as Wyldstyle, especially in her interactions with Will Arnett’s Batman, even if her character is predictably the love interest for Emmet. Given the small amount of female characters it’s kind of a shame to see Banks' character used to create a romantic arc for Emmet. On the bright side, Wyldstyle has plenty of agency in the story because of her status as one of the Master Builders of the Lego universe. Most of the action-set pieces of the film involve Wyldstyle showing off her creativity and kicking copious amounts of minifigure butt.
Lord Business is a character that Will Ferrell could play in his sleep, so I was happy to see him bring plenty of energy to the role. He gets a lot of laughs from the pronunciation of certain words, which is a credit to both Ferrell and the screenplay by Miller and Lord. Late in the film, Ferrell has a chance to play some more heartfelt moments and nails those as well. The enormous cast of supporting characters and cameos is just as solid in their performances. I mentioned Will Arnett’s Batman, but Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Liam Neeson, Charlie Day, and many, many more also make great contributions. That list barely scratches the surface. I could spend the rest of the review just listing off all the cameos.
A solid cast can only take you so far if the writing isn’t up to par, especially in a comedy. The screenplay by Miller and Lord is fantastic. The film moves at a great pace, introducing us to Emmet and his world before quickly blowing it open and showing off a variety of wonderfully imaginative places, including one at the end that I totally did not see coming. The screenplay is also packed with jokes playing off adventure movie clichés and the fact that this is a universe constructed entirely out of Lego blocks. Beyond the comedy, the film also dives into themes about creativity and individuality. The tiny bricks that give the film its name are often heralded as a toy that inspires creativity in kids; a box of Legos representing a world of limitless possibilities.
Legos were a big part of my childhood and probably had something to do with my decision to study engineering once I hit college. The recent Lego boom has been all about adapting a bunch of different properties into Lego pieces and creating these playsets with detailed instruction and no room for improvisation. The conflict between instructions and free-form creation is at the heart of the film and I was particularly satisfied with the way the film addresses this issue. It doesn’t condemn instructions and structure entirely, concluding that, like most things, the answer lies somewhere in-between.
Miller and Lord have built a film that manages to be immensely fun and also gives you a little something to think about too. It’s genuinely funny and has an awesome visual style as well. The animation is top notch, using CG images to create a Lego world that feels so real I could have sworn certain scenes were old school stop-motion animation. In fact, a big portion of the comedy comes from the way the minifigures move and interact with the world around them. It feels exactly like someone is just goofing around with a giant set of Legos. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from a great Lego movie. The Lego Movie is easily my favorite film of the year so far and I heartily recommend you check it out.
Image: Warner Brothers