Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Will Arnett, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Will Ferrell
Who would have thought that those simple brightly coloured bricks we all used to play with as children could conquer so much? A big budget film does not seem like a natural step for a construction game but if you are surprised by the decision to throw millions of pounds at a film based on a Danish toy, you will be amazed that the end result makes for such fantastic viewing.
The Lego Movie does not stray from the traditional good versus evil plot but it is done with such delightfully subversive charm that it would take a real curmudgeon not to find any joy. Chris Pratt is on lead voice duties as totally average construction worker Emmet who turns out to be the ‘Special’. This comes as quite a surprise to him given he has spent his entire existence trying to be completely average. His daily life in Bricktown, run by the obviously sinister Lord Business (Will Ferrell), follows the same identical regime. In case he is ever in doubt, there is a handy booklet to fill him in on each step. Everyone else obeys the routine, apparently finding endless joy in a meaningless existence.
This all changes when he stumbles across the mythical piece of resistance that can only be found by the ‘Special’, and is whisked away from the confines of Bricktown by Elizabeth Bank’s Wyldstyle. Despite never entirely comprehending any of it, Emmet finds himself in the middle of a battle between Lord Business’ forces of authoritarian order led by Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) and the chaotically creative master builders led by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). With a ragtag band of supporters including Batman (Will Arnett), Metal Beard (Nick Offerman) and Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie), they set out to use the piece of resistance to stop Lord Business destroying the world with the mysterious superweapon, the Kragle.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who both co-direct and co-write the screenplay, have pulled off a remarkable achievement. Somehow, they have avoided turning a film about a toy into a tedious extended advert. In all likelihood, you will walk out wanting to buy some Lego, but Lord and Miller have earned that reaction through the application of madcap anarchic humour and wonderfully sly satire.
This is comedy fit to grace only the finest of films. The Lego world forms the perfect cinematic backdrop through a series of bizarre landscapes that act as set-ups for brilliant pratfalls and large scale destruction. There are edge of the seat chase sequences and real moments of peril that rattle through a number of different settings. All this is bolstered by a wide range of jokes that ensure every age category is catered for. If the physical comedy does not do it for you how about the fast paced one-liners. If you want something a little more out there, surreal non-sequiturs pop up. And Lego’s lo-fi beginnings are never forgotten. When least expected, childish sound effects suddenly ring out to remind everyone that this is primarily a game of the imagination.
That is not to say the large budget has gone to waste. The animation is top notch bringing the world to life in a glorious stop motion form that harks back to afternoons building Lego cities, Wild West saloons, castles and space stations. Facial expressions, clothing and hair jerk around as if someone were playing with the individual Lego figurines. These figurines are also rendered beautifully, as if they have just come straight out the box. In a genre full of the same CGI animations it makes for a delightful change.
Lord and Miller have created far more than just an entertaining adventure though. They have somehow managed to build in a wicked attack at faceless corporatist culture without trashing everyone’s favourite Danish toy. This is a battle between the forces of a bland and uniform capitalist consumer world stacked up against freewheeling imagination. Sure it makes a mess and can be hard to keep in check at times, but the wild creations the manic master builders come up with are infinitely more interesting than any chain restaurant, catch phrase TV and ridiculously overpriced coffee that no one can seem to stop from buying. That this message is delivered in a film based on an international merchandising franchise is all the more impressive. Admittedly, Lego takes the opportunity to line itself up on the side of rebellious good but it is there name on the front after all.
The one black mark comes at the end when the refreshing approach of the rest of the film is abandoned for a tiresome moral message. Suddenly we have strayed into be yourself territory, the movie equivalent of an overpriced and uninspiring coffee chain. At least a wonderfully offbeat twist is thrown into the mix at the same time, a final treat before the Lego world shuts down until the inevitable sequel.
Far better than anyone had any right to expect from what is essentially a gloried sales pitch for a plastic brick, The Lego Movie is terrific family entertainment in the very best way. It is not just a kids’ film with the odd joke thrown in for adults. It operates on several levels and aces them all. Contrary to Emmet’s favourite song, not everything is awesome. But it is not far off either.