I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the Lego Movie was a bad idea. The toy-property-to-movie concept isn’t anything new; Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Battleship being the best examples. And while these franchises have largely been hits, they aren’t necessarily the best films Hollywood has to offer. Thus my skepticism upon hearing the ‘cash-grab’ idea of turning one of my favorite toys growing up into a animated film. I couldn’t have been more surprised by the results.
The magic of The Lego Movie lies it’s execution. Part of the charm of those Danish blocks is how it brings to life our imagination. As a child growing up, I would spends hours constructing anything my imagination could conceive, allowing worlds to develop before my eyes. It’s this emphasis that drives the film, allowing children and adults to immediately relate. Warner Bros. wisely brought on the creative team behind the 2009 surprise hit, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to write and direct The Lego Movie. Thus the witty humor, puns, and poignant storytelling that made CWACOM a hit are inherit within The Lego Movie. After the success of Cloudy, as well as 21 Jump Street and now The Lego Movie, writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are slowly becoming the most bankable directors working today.
Taking inspiration from the stop-motion animated lego shorts that have proliferated YouTube, Lord and Miller have abandoned the smooth, streamlined world of previous CG animated films and instead approached their film in a similar vein as those that inspired it. The animation adopts the stop-motion animated style, many of the lego blocks and characters show scuff marks and plastic, mold injected textures. Real-world objects have found their way into this lego world, such as Vitruvius’ staff (an old lolipop stick) as well as the film’s dreaded weapon, Kragle (an old tube of Krazy Glue with some of the letters missing). Everything is animated using lego blocks; the oceans waves are created from thousands of connected blocks, building on and off as the waves move up and down. Every explosion is an amalgamated jumble of glowing orange pieces growing outward as they stack on top on each other. The intent being that a huge invisible being is somehow responsible for everything we see.
This directly plays into the film’s story. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is a construction worker, who’s daily activities consists of the same monotonous routine. After accidentally discovering the Piece of Resistance (a play on the French pièce de résistance) Emmet becomes involved in an epic quest to stop Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from using the super weapon, Kragle, to permanently freeze the universe in it’s place. Before Emmet (and the Piece of Resistance) can be destroyed, he is rescued by Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), one of many Master Builders that can build anything they desire. With the help of Vitruvius (a blind, prophetic wizard voiced by Morgan Freeman), Batman, Metal Beard, and others; they must concoct a plan to defeat Lord Business before he can permanently freeze in place the universe.
The Lego Movie’s jokes may not always hit, but the story is truly inventive, and with a great cast providing voice talents, it’s easy to get swept into the movie. It’s overall strength is the level of imagination involved, wonderfully brought to live in visually creative worlds all built using the connecting blocks. The film takes an interesting turn in the final third act of the film, but only to reveal how creative and magical Lord and Miller are. The Lego Movie isn’t the work of art that Up or Toy Story 3 is, but it left me feeling like a young kid again- where imagination and creativity ruled supreme.