OK, we’re writing this rapidly, but the quick thing to say is that The Lego Movie is surprisingly good and funny. I went into it with really no expectations at all and found myself happy and in a good mood the whole way through.
The film starts off telling the story of Emmet, an ordinary Lego construction worker who lives in a Lego world that values conformity and following the rules above all else. Refreshingly for this sort of story, Emmet actually fits into this world very well, or at least he thinks he does. He does not feel a gnawing emptiness inside or a deep dissatisfaction with his life that drives him to seek out some sort of anarchic sub-culture (ie The Matrix). His only issue is that he’s so decidedly uninteresting and so unmotivated to improve his lot that he’s ignored by-and-large by the equally conformist society around him.
So after this unexpectedly thought-provoking set-up, the story kicks into gear when Emmet discovers and becomes physically attached to the mysterious “Piece of Resistance” – which is prophesied to be the only thing that can stop the Kragle, the apocalyptic weapon that the totalitarian President Business, plans to use to destroy the world. He is rescued by the beautiful WyldStyle who believes that he is the “Special,” destined to save the world in the aforementioned prophesy.
Thus begins a roller-coaster chase into a world of intentionally choppy animation, Lego-related jokes, and surprising pop-culture cameos. Years before the almost inconceivable Henry Cavill / Ben Affleck movie comes out, The Lego Movie will go down in history as the first big screen appearance of Superman and Batman in a movie together. Add to that Wonder Woman, Gandalf, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Han Solo and more, and you’ve got quite the impressive collection (as well as the best theatrical film ever released which features Green Lantern).
The best is Batman. He’s not just in the movie as a cameo, but as a full-fledged major supporting character. All the jokes we’ve been making for years (ever since Michael Keaton, really) about the sorts of things a growly-voiced Batman might say when he’s not fighting crime have been brought to life in The Lego Movie. My favorite line was something like, “If this relationship is going to work, I have got to be able to go off and party with guys I’ve never met whenever I like,” said in the traditional scary Batman voice.
But the movie does a lot more than just give us pop-culture references. Not only are there are lot of clever jokes, but the story moves in some surprising directions as it goes along, and even brings up some interesting notions about the nature of reality and the power of imagination. I’m not wanting to overstate it – I wouldn’t call it a work of genius or anything, but it manages to explore a reasonably thought-provoking world without leaving kids behind. (Although there was “look-how-bad-this-villain-is sequence in the middle that freaked out my particularly sensitive middle child quite a bit. She seemed over it by the end).
Although the film is clearly computer-generated, it works hard to make itself look reminiscent of a Lego stop-motion film. The animation has been purposely left “unsmoothed out”, and every visual element–including smoke, laser blasts, and water–is inspired apparently by a real life Lego piece.
There is a solid and serviceable voice cast which includes such luminaries as Morgan Freeman (God from Evan Almighty, I explained to my children), Liam Neeson (Aslan from the Narnia films, I also added), and Alison Brie (Annie from Community I told my wife). You’ve also got Will Ferrell as the story’s villain and Charlie Day (who I also just blogged about for his role in Pacific Rim) as one of the supporting characters. There are also fun cameos by Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels and Shaquille O’Neal as the characters they are best known for (Lando Calrissian, C-3PO, and, uh, Shaquille O’Neal).
Weak points? Well, the “theme song” which is purposely highly memorable in a sugary-sweet sort of way is perhaps a liiiiiitle bit to successful at being memorable in a sugary-sweet sort of way. And there is one point around the climax that involves victory coming when all of the conformists are willing to listen to a stranger on a screen and to just be creative and think original thoughts – it’s a bit of an obvious and convenient way for the story to go forward, but at least it doesn’t turn out to be the final climax.
But those weak points are minor compared to the movie’s strengths: it’s funny, it’s clever, it’s surprising, and it’s got enough for both kids and adults to have a good time.