Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Lego Movie

When I first heard that Warner Bros. was making a movie based on the Lego property, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. Films based on toys have a very troubling history in my book (Transformers), and it would have been easy for WB to rest its laurels entirely on the brand they're representing. With all the Lego tie-ins that have been introduced over the years, a cynical part of me expected this to be a half-baked attempt to cash-in on a kitschy idea. However, all of my pessimism immediately evaporated the moment I saw the trailer for this movie. In case you were wondering, don't worry - not all of the good scenes are in the trailer.

Emmet is as ordinary as a Lego person can be. He always listens to the same song, watches the same TV show, and always follows "the instructions". Though Emmet is relatively content with his ordinary lifestyle as a builder, he often longs for companionship. No one seems to notice him, even the people he sees every day. On one particularly painful occasion where he is not invited out with the guys after work, Emmet goes beyond the boundaries of the work site and sees a beautiful, rebellious girl named Wyldstyle. Rather than report her instruction violation, however, he tries to follow her and winds up coming in contact with a mysterious, red object known as a piece of resistance. This inadvertently anoints him as the "Special", the subject of a prophecy foretelling his thwarting the evil schemes of Lord Business and saving the Lego universe...

Anyone who has played the Lego-themed video games can tell you that the funniest parts are the in-between scenes where Lego characters act out parodied scenes from Star Wars or Indiana Jones. This movie harnesses that wonderful physical comedy, combining it with clever writing and wonderful voice actors to make one of the most creative films I've seen in years. What they have managed to do with this movie is nothing short of genius, as they created the perfect new franchise. There is obvious appeal for kids, but the material is intelligent enough to give adult audiences an equally enjoyable time. Not only that, but it has the enthusiasm and imagination to make each member of the audience feel like a kid again, being swept up in the wonder of childhood fantasies.

There are so many perfectly executed characters in this film that it's impossible to name them all. Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) is the most likable guy you could imagine, and his journey to find his inner "special" is better than most of the live action movies I saw last year. Even a side character like "Bad Cop" (awesomely performed by Liam Neeson) that no one would expect to be anything more than a one-off gag actually gets a satisfying character arc.It's a star-studded cast, but the actors perfectly complement the story rather than overwhelm it as some animated films tend to do (The Croods). There are tons of hilarious cameos and amazing in-jokes for the older crowd, and the running length flies by faster than you'd probably like.

By making the animation mimic stop-motion with Lego pieces, they've actually created an opportunity to do something unique that allows this movie to stand out. Luckily, this screenplay is also just as inventive as the amazing visuals. There are a lot of twists and turns in the film's narrative, but it all comes together in a really surprising way. I seriously can't say enough about this film's creativity and cleverness, and I think it's going to reap some massive financial benefits as a result. Warner Bros. knows they've got a hit, as they've already green-lit the sequel. Releasing in the notoriously slow month of February, The Lego Movie is poised to be an early box office juggernaut in both ticket sales and the unlimited opportunities for tie-ins and cross-overs... how I wish could get a piece of that pie...

To sum up, this movie is fantastic and will surely reward repeat viewings as the humor is so plentiful that it's impossible to absorb entirely upon a first viewing. Not only is this not the shameless commercial for the titular blocks it could have easily become, but it stands in the same realm as Toy Story in my opinion. This is obviously the best film I've seen this year (as it's the only film I've seen this year), but I have a feeling it may end up being high in my top ten at the end of the year as well. While I won't make the case that this is a perfect film (despite the amount of times I used the word "perfect" in this review) I think the overall average of how surprisingly good this film is demands a dramatic star-rating. I give The Lego Movie four stars.

THE LEGO MOVIE is rated PG for mild action and rude humor