It’s a film that, on paper, shouldn’t work. At the very least, it sounds like the biggest commercial for a single brand ever. But with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who previously teamed for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, at the helm, The Lego Movie is a frequently hilarious, surprisingly heartfelt film that transcends its ties to the toy bricks that populate the screen.
The film centers around Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), a construction worker who’s used to living by the instructions laid out by President Business (Will Ferrell). One day, though, Emmet finds himself distracted by the rear-kicking Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and inadvertently stuck to something called the Piece of Resistance, which is the only thing that can stop President Business, a.k.a. Lord Business, from unleashing a weapon called the Kragle on all of the Lego worlds. Keeping Emmet away from Lord Business and his henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), Wyldstyle takes him through different lands where they meet the Master Builders, a group that can build anything they can think of without instructions. But will Emmet be able to prove that he is the Special, the one who can stop Lord Business?
I’ll admit that I thought this movie would simply be a cash-grab for Lego up until I saw the first trailer several months ago. Instead, Lord and Miller have taken this opportunity to create a story about the importance of two different concepts: having the freedom to be creative, and being able to follow instructions to accomplish something. The film includes a twist in the third act that, in particular, shows the dangers of squashing creativity, and it’s done in a way that should surprise most audiences. It’s definitely a message aimed more for the adults bringing children to this movie.
The message is balanced out with a rapid-fire sense of humor. While it’s kid-friendly, the humor skews heavily towards pop culture references and satire. One of the most engaging bits of satire is the film’s take on pop music, which comes down to a single K-pop–style song called “Everything is AWESOME!!!” Be warned: the song will be stuck in your head when leaving the theater.
It also helps that the film includes a number of talented actors playing characters that offer twists on characters they frequently portray. Morgan Freeman’s Vitruvius, for example, takes the wise older man role Freeman’s played so many times, and makes him a bit crazy. Liam Neeson’s Good Cop/Bad Cop takes advantage of the two-sided faces to many Lego minifigures so that he can play aggressive and kind within seconds of each other. The center of the film, though, is Emmet, and Chris Pratt brings all of the manchild amazement that he’s brought to other roles for this one sweet but naive character.
And then there’s the animation. While largely CGI, the film also includes a lot of stop-motion animation. As far as the animation goes, with the exception of the characters’ faces, everything looks like something someone with a lot of time (and money for the world’s largest Lego collection) could recreate. That includes characters that only move at their joints, and elements like water that are made from translucent blue plastic Legos. It’s a nice touch.
Out of all the films marketed to kids every year, there are usually a few that are great for adults as well. This year, The Lego Movie is one of those films. Just think of it as the more hyperactive version of Toy Story.