Is The LEGO Movie worthy enough for us to put down our bricks to see it? Read on to find out!
As an original (and former) LEGO collector, my youth was filled endlessly assembling red, blue, and gray bricks into space ships, vehicles, and structures while Han Solo and Darth Vader looked on, hoping for a piece of that action. But I was among the few who saw the Danish creations as more than the 'suggestions' featured on the box. For me, it wasn't about skyscrapers or Star Destroyers, but the merging of sets into new and terrific forms. The new LEGO is all about pre-established environments that require minimal knowledge and zero imagination to build; such realities might be new norm, but luckily the premise of the company's first film The Lego Movie boldly addresses this in hilarious fashion. Its arrival to theaters this week will have you in stitches while conjuring the real reason why we love those plastic parts so much.
The ordinary LEGO mini-figure Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) goes about his days at a Bricksburg construction site, blissfully unaware of the evil approaching his city. He and the citizens of Bricksburg sing, dance, and consume media and over-priced coffee via the leader President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), whose persona hides the evil Lord Business. For reasons later released, he wants to glue down all of the LEGO worlds so its citizens can't recombine the building blocks into new and creative ways. One day, Emmet meets the tough Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) who's been sent by the Master Builder wizard Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) to find The Special, a Master Builder who will bring peace to the LEGO universe while defeating Lord Business and his henchman Good Cop/Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson). Unfortunately, the dim-witted Emmet is no Master Builder, and so he and Wyldstyle recruit various heroes including Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), Uni-Kitty (voiced by Alison Brie), Metalbeard (voiced by Nick Offerman) and "the 1980-something space guy" Benny (voiced by Charlie Day). Together, they must stop Lord Business from releasing his devious plan on Taco Tuesday and recreating the LEGO universe in his own image.
Directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs franchise) have created a pitch-perfect production, infused with a bit of Muppets zaniness, plenty of cameos, and a third act reveal that was shocking to our test audience. There are also little Lego Easter eggs scattered all of over the place - such as the displaying of parts numbers for various building blocks - but it's the story about the rekindling of our youth that rings most true. LEGO would have been great had it simply stuck to the animated angle, but Lord and Miller take it up a notch when they do that thing I can't tell you about. Their decision raises the stakes in a way few films have done, turning our interpretation of this crazy world on its ear and making us realize the reason why the colored bricks and mini-people have always been so appealing.
Sometimes, voice-overs simply don't work (see The Nut Job), but here Lord and Miller get the most out of what has to be the most star-studded lineup ever collected for a film. Our actors do an excellent job of throwing out silly puns and working together so that their voices don't seem like they were individually recorded in some cold forbidding studio. Writers Dan and Kevin Hageman introduce so many hilarious tips-of-the-hat from the LEGO universe and the film genre in general that we had a hard time keeping up with all of them. That's not a bad thing, as it simply means we'll have to return to the theater several times to pick them all up. We had some trouble understanding the dialogue over the music and effects, but we're willing to write that off as a theater issue instead of glitch with the film itself.
In the end, The LEGO Movie is such an inoffensive and silly ride that no one should leave the theater with a frown. It hits all the right paces, keeps us in stitches, and solidifies the LEGO brand as something more than a basement dweller freak show inside adult nerd palaces. Much like those colorful blocks, it reminds us that anything is possible and that our world is truly what we build of it, not what some instructions dictate in a manual. In a time of derivative sequels and 'seen-that-before' malaise, it proves that great ideas can still capture our imagination. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time I bust out my old collection and grab Luke and Leia for a new adventure. The LEGO Movie is rated PG for reasons I can't fathom and has a runtime of 100 minutes.
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