The LEGO Movie
Featuring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett and Charlie Day
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
From Warner Bros. Pictures
Let your imagination run wild with lovely LEGOs movie
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
The LEGO Movie will crash on you like a ton of bricks — swiftly and unexpectedly and in an explosion of color. And a ton of LEGO bricks, that’s like a billion pieces, right? Get a broom before you’re mom comes in and impales her heel on one of those 2x4s with the sharp corners.
This is the zaniest, most joyfully plucky movie you’ll see this year, a Pixar movie if not in name then in spirit. It arrives on the screen with herky-jerky stop-motion-like animation — it’s actually all CGI — that is warmly nostalgic yet wonderfully alien and foreign. The movie quickly wraps around you, folding you into its charm and whimsy and its nutty hopscotch through pop-culture. In what other movie would it make complete sense for Gandalf, Batman, Shaquille O’Neill and Abe Lincoln in a rocket chair to be chilling out together? And then out of nowhere, Millennium Falcon!
The movie takes place in a LEGO world populated by little minifigures, their skin Simpson yellow and their legs two scissoring hunks of plastic. Their world, overflowing with mindless consumption and the worshiping of all things mainstream, is basically a satire of capitalism (or communism depending on your slant) told in a way a child could understand. Everyone has a job they love, a song they all sing together (“Everything is Awesome!”), inane TV shows they all watch in mass (Where Are My Pants?) and mass-market trends they all follow. When someone is asked what their favorite restaurant is the only response seems to be “any chain restaurant.” The commentary is quite sharp, which is odd considering the nice people at LEGO probably made this movie hoping that LEGO sales would shoot through the roof (and they will), which is itself some kind of twisted satire.
We begin with Emmet Brickowski, a construction worker who builds sparkling new Lego buildings using the most helpful instructions imaginable, IKEA plans for those averse to words. Construction in a LEGO world is exactly how you might imagine: old buildings are demolished so their pieces can be scooped up and used on the next building project. The detail in the world is remarkable: everything is LEGO. And I mean everything: streets, oceans, fire, smoke, suds in a shower … the animators never cheat by using other materials.
What happens next is basically the plot of The Matrix: Emmet (Chris Pratt) learns he might be the subject of a prophecy foretelling of The One, a LEGO man who could essentially reboot the universe into a more open and accepting utopia. He learns he’s the mythical One when he falls down a deep shaft and climbs out with some foreign body — literally, the Piece of Resistance — stuck to his back.
With Emmet playing the Neo role, the Trinity character is WildStyle (Elizabeth Banks), a high-flying action heroine who can, in a nanosecond, flash her eyes over her surroundings and design, on the fly, a schematic for inventive new LEGO creations like double decker motorcycles, submarine RVs or Old West flying contraptions. The Morpheus character is Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a wise old wizard with glowing eyes and, yes, Morgan Freeman’s voice. They’re all fighting President Business (Will Ferrell), who despises free thinking and not following the instructions. His secret weapon is the Kragle, a device so devilishly obvious that I will let you discover it.
The movies takes place in a sprawling metropolis, Western frontier lands, a pink-tinted dreamscape in the clouds and in other various LEGO playsets. Some of the imagery is suitably bonkers, including a horse riding a giant horse, a mechanized pirate, ridiculous security systems (“Sharks. Lasers. Sharks with lasers.”) and doomsday devices that count down from “100 Mississippi, 99 Mississippi, 98 …” Human objects turn up later in the movie, including the Polish Remover of Nye-eel and the Sword of Exact-Zero, which drew giddy chuckles from the adults. The movie also has one of the most gloriously glib presentations of Batman that is likely to ever exist.
If you admired the wackiness of the lovely stop-motion movie A Town Called Panic, then you’re likely to be thoroughly charmed by this witty children’s comedy. The voice cast is endearingly goofy, and the animation is endlessly inventive. And the story, bless its plastic heart, has a powerful message about imaginations and tossing out rulebooks and instruction manuals. Now, I can’t say that I like this trend of toys becoming movies to sell more toys. I certainly prefer The LEGO Movie to any of Hasbro’s Transformers movies, but that doesn’t diminish my concern. Along time ago, movies were made to be movies. The merchandise was an afterthought. Now, the toys are the movies.
That being said, LEGOs might be the only movie that can get away with this without much backlash. It helps tremendously that the movie is delightful in nearly every way. It also helps that the nature of LEGOs is to use your imagination to invent your own stories, which is exactly what the creators of The LEGO Movie seem to have done for a sustained and enchanting 100 minutes.