The LEGO Movie Review

(3.5 STARS)

The very idea that something called The LEGO Movie was being made was enough to send shivers down the spine of anyone with good cinematic taste or a mind for originality. You know those critics who think they need to write to save cinema? The announcement of a feature-length LEGO movie was arguably the one time I thought their inflated opinions of themselves were justified. Please, I pleaded, save us!

So how in the world did The LEGO Movie become the most rip-roaringly awesome movies of the year? How could a pitch that begins and ends with, “Let’s make a movie out of and about blocks,” turn into a movie as clever and full of genuine pathos as this one?

It’s hard to point to anything or anyone other than Phil Lord and Chris Miller for an answer. Two guys who started their careers on the short-lived MTV animated series Clone High, they’ve only directed two feature-length films. The first was animated—Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The second gave us a taste of their irreverent sense of humor—21 Jump Street. The LEGO Movie is a weird and wild combination of both of those movies. It’s also more interestingly animated than the former, and even more sharp and meta than the latter.

The film introduces us to Emmet Brickowski (voice of Chris Pratt)—a model citizen of the LEGO city of Bricksburg. Emmet follows the instructions all citizens are provided by the government and President Business (voice of Will Ferrell) to a T, but that also means he doesn’t leave much of an impression on the folks around him. In other words, he definitely is not the greatest, most talented, most interesting, most important person of all times.

But he’s thrust into a position of leadership among the LEGO universe’s “master builders”—rebels like Batman (voice of Will Arnett), Unikitty (voice of Alison Brie), Benny the Spaceman (voice of Charlie Day), and Wild Style (voice of Elizabeth Banks)—who don’t follow President Business’ instructions. A prophecy set down by the wise Vitruvius (voice of Morgan Freeman) calls for the one who finds the “piece of resistance” to become the “Special.” He or she will save the world from Business and stop him from using his all-powerful weapon called the “Kragle.” Emmet happens to be the Special, but his lack of skills and ideas means it’ll take a miracle to stop Business before he deploys the Kragle in just a few days time.

The whole thing is hokey, but that’s all by design for an earnest LEGO movie would have almost certainly lived down to expectations many had about the project’s absurd and vain origin. No, Lord and Miller go out of their way to remind viewers in the film’s opening scenes that this is supposed to be fun. The laughs come at you fast, and they’re as much directed as parents and adults as they are toward the actual LEGO target audience.

There’s also a gooey center inside the film that makes it feel more essential than your average colorful but disposable animated adventure. The film takes a turn in its final third that introduces us to some new(ish) characters and a new dynamic that turns a lot of what precedes it on its head and lends weight to the film’s themes of being oneself and believing in oneself.

The voice work is superb (especially Arnett as Batman), and the clunkiness of the all-LEGO animation is consistently charming. There will be better films in 2014 (one hopes), but if there’s another one as mindlessly and hopelessly fun as this one, we’re in for a great year at the movies.

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