The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie Movie ReviewWarner Bros.
PG for mild action and rude humor.
Running time: 100 minutes.
Four stars out of four.

“The Lego Movie”: Merely a great film, or the greatest film ever in the history of cinema?

I asked this question — jokingly, rhetorically — during our What the Flick?! review, but the more I think about it, the more in awe I am of the way “The Lego Movie” works on every level for every possible viewer. “Everything Is Awesome” isn’t just an insanely catchy theme song, one that will be stuck in your head for days if not weeks afterward (and may even drive out “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” if you’re lucky). It’s a statement of fact. It may even be an understatement.

That’s not a typo at the top — I really am giving this movie four stars. You know that old cliched response after walking out of a movie or a play: “I laughed, I cried”? This time, it’s really true. I laughed my ass off — and then I cried. A 3-D, animated movie about a bunch of tiny pieces of plastic made me cry. And you guys who have read me for a while know that I’m cold and soulless and not usually susceptible to the power of tearjerkery. But that’s one of the many reasons I loved “The Lego Movie” so much: It kept surprising me.

Actually, my husband, Chris, and I ended up liking the movie even better than Nicolas did — and he’s the one who was super-pumped to go see it, inspired by the ubiquity of marketing all around town. (Warner Bros.: You guys sure know how to reach your target audience of 4-year-olds.)

It moves so beautifully, it has such irresistible humor and irrepressible energy, but always feels effortless. It’s jammed with affectionate, cheeky pop-culture references but never seems hacky or strains for the laugh; so many of the jokes fly by at such a giddily frenzied clip, you’ll probably have to go see the movie a second time just to catch them all. And you probably won’t mind doing that; “The Lego Movie” is the rare film based on a toy or a game that truly feels like its own unique universe rather than a shameless, extended infomercial.

Did we mention the voice cast? We haven’t even gotten to the exceptional voice cast yet. So often with animated movies, the A-list stunt casting serves as a distraction and takes you out of the narrative. Here, it provides one of the many opportunities for directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to take established genre conventions and turn them on their heads, similar to their inspired version of “21 Jump Street.” Morgan Freeman, for example, plays a blind mystic whose prophecy sends an ordinary guy on an extraordinary hero’s journey. But in doing so, he knowingly pokes fun at his propensity for playing God-like figures, his rich voice providing both gravitas and goofy laughs.

The increasingly endearing Chris Pratt provides the voice of Emmet, a regular construction-worker drone who always follows the rules and does what’s expected of his in his incessantly perky, if regimented, Lego town. Much of the humor comes from the way in which the characters’ world mirrors ours, with its overpriced coffee, crowded commutes, idiotic sitcoms and overplayed radio tunes. Everything is awesome, as the song goes, but every day is exactly the same.

But one day, Emmet stumbles upon a random piece of red plastic that’s unlike the rest of the interlocking bricks that surround him. It is the Piece of Resistance, a crucial component of the prophecy that Freeman’s character, Vitruvius, told of at the beginning. And in finding it, Emmet becomes known as The Special — the one who will save the Lego universe from ultimate destruction. He gets help from a ragtag band of strangers including a bad-ass Goth chick who goes by the name Wyldstyle (an adorable Elizabeth Banks); Batman (Will Arnett, doing a Batman version of his pompous “Arrested Development” character, Gob); a makeshift pirate captain called Metal Beard (Nick Offerman); and the unflappably happy Unikitty (Alison Brie) which is — you guessed it — half unicorn and half kitty.

They must outsmart and outrun the evil President Business, better known as Lord Business, who wants the piece for himself to maintain order and separation between all the Lego realms. So yeah, he’s kind of a fascist tyrant. But in the hands of Will Ferrell, he’s also hilariously self-serious. President Business’ right-hand man is the bi-polar Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), who dons whichever persona he must to get the job done and keep everyone in line.

“The Lego Movie” message of thinking for yourself and trying new things may sound a lot like theme of  “The Croods” last year, but it presents this notion in a much more lively and clever manner. A great deal of that has to do with the look of the animation, which is beautiful in its crudeness. While the images are computer-generated, they have the intentionally jumpy, rough-hewn look of stop-motion animation — as if the effects team had moved brick by brick painstakingly by hand to create the sensation of motion. Everything is made of Legos, from the people and vehicles to water and bullets. It is an endless joy to watch, and the fact that some of the pieces and characters’ faces have a chip or a smudge here or there adds to the charm.

Just when you may start feeling like this zippy thrill ride of a movie is exhausting you, it takes a third-act turn that you probably never would have seen coming. I wouldn’t dream of giving anything away about it. But I will say that it’s daring, profound and emotionally powerful in a way that caught me completely off guard — especially sitting in the theater with my 4-year-old son curled up in my lap.

 

25 Comments on “The Lego Movie

  1.  by  LL

    My favorite movie of the year, so far. Good message, hilarious jokes, and imaginative animation. Probably the best toy based movie since the first Toy Story

  2.  by  David

    Very well-written review! Easy to understand and has some heart in it! :)

    -David

  3.  by  Anonymous

    I’m so excited to see this movie! But it seems as though it’s more suited to teens and adults than actual children.

  4.  by  Diogo

    Thanks for the review.

    I was definitively feeling exhausted and kind of boring through the whole movie until the end came to play, and it was a big turn around for good. Very powerful and well written ending.

  5.  by  Charles

    I’m wondering if the subsequent sequels can live up to this one’s awesomeness

  6.  by  jeff

    have just come back from watching 3d version. the theatre was not full but laughter was all around but quiet at the right points. the section the reviewer does not mention brought tears to my eyes and I am 47.

    fantastic film. the Lego ocean with the pirate ship is stunning.

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  8.  by  Howie

    I took a couple of 10 year old boys. They liked it. I thought it was enjoyable *until* the parallelism/live action segments. They *totally* lost me at that point. That’s a plot device I’ve always detested – actually throwing out a 12 issue comic series because it ended in such a fashion. Wait for it to be at Redbox for a free rental.

  9.  by  Mike

    Good for kids with the unique animation but may have resonated better with adults if “lord government” was the underyling theme by using the old style lego pieces used for constructing bland, dark, dreary Soviet style government housing with workers “following the rules” with no personal choice or life and the resistance would have been the freedom fighters in that case similar to themes of the classic animated anti-collectivist movie “Antz”. Lego could have made itself look justified then for issuing the huge variety of modern kits because many parents long for the simple blocks that leave the imagination up to the kids. Instead, lego took a different tact and decided to make fun of itself as “lord business” with its “pre-themed kits, follow the instructions”.. etc although it did depict a lively, vibrant city in the beginning. Teasing the city dwellers choosing to buy expensive coffee and listening to Beyonce type mindless music was cute.

    •  by  Mark

      I went to this movie with low expectations and I left feeling like the reviewer that this movie is a gem. I disagree with Mike. The corporate theme was current and very familiar to us. The filmmakers hit just about every note perfectly. And the message part of the story is more profound than many reviews I have read. My take on the message is that we have allowed corporations to control our lives to such an extent that it puts all of us in danger; which is overcome by everyone realizing their own “specialness” by contributing each special strength to an organized plan for liberation. This is the path of redemption for even the President/Lord Business. It speaks simply yet profoundly for each of us today.

    •  by  Carolyn

      Most of the adult viewing audience is talking on one of two smartphone brands, drinking $7.00 Starbucks Frappucinos, and watching the same three or four hit cable series, so Emmet’s world resonated with us in a way that your storyline would not have (plus, as you note, “Antz” kind of did that already). One of the many things I took away from this movie (and like Christy, I cried) is that many of us just follow the instructions on the kits — they aren’t as blatant as in Emmet’s world, but we just do what society expects and we follow the paths that have already been trodden into ruts by thousands of feet before us. The Master Builders don’t do that; they think of what they want or need and then they simply create it, even if it means breaking the rules and blasting tradition. Martha Graham, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Pharell Williams (yes, I’m serious) — these are just a few of humanity’s Master Builders, and we all have the potential to be The Special if we acknowledge our own creativity and strengths and give reign to them.

  10.  by  Emmy

    Bi-polar. Seriously. Someone as seemingly intelligent as you couldn’t come up with a better way to discribe the cop Lego. This mental illness advocates says pick up a thesaurus!

    •  by  Mike D NYC

      Hey, Emmy: Seriously, discribe? It’s spelled d-e-s-c-r-i-b-e. And how ’bout a question mark after “cop Lego,” not a period? Plus, are you saying you’re a mental illness advocate? Who in her right mind is an advocated of mental illness?

      •  by  Bret

        I would like to comment on some things here. I would like to say, I too loved the movie and liked your review until you described a character (Good Cop/Bad Cop) as having Bipolar because he switched personalities. I feel this statement leads to misconceptions and bias against people with Bipolar disorder. According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders Bipolar is a mood disorder not a personality disorder. I feel the diagnosis that would fit this character is Dissociative Identity Disorder (fka multiple personality disorder). To answer your question on who advocates for mental illness, I do. I advocate for the fair treatment of people in society regardless of their disability.

      •  by  Bianca

        How rude are you?

        By the way, that was a rhetorical question. You are not required to answer it.

        If you think that insulting someone for their spelling and typing skills make you a better person than they are, think again.

        I, also, am an advocate for people with a mental illness.

  11.  by  Cheryl

    That was the worst movie I’ve seen ever. The 2 9yr olds I took thought it was stupid too. The nerds behind us were laughing hysterically at a stupid eyebrow raise. We just didn’t get why this was rated so high by all of the critics. Total let down.

    •  by  Michael

      I agree. I was thinking this may have been the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Hardly funny. My friend who went with me agreed as did her 10-year-old.

      •  by  Carolyn

        @ Cheryl and Michael: I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the movie (I can’t believe that you weren’t even impressed the least bit by the incredibly skillful animation, but we must move on), but if this is the worst movie you’ve ever seen, you are living the good life. So that you may gain perspective, I recommend viewing Weird Al Yankovic’s “UHF,” Keenan Ivory and Damon Wayans’ “Blankman,” and/or Brendan Fraser in “Monkeybone.”

  12.  by  Christy Lemire

    Worst movie you’ve ever seen, Cheryl and Michael? Clearly you guys have never seen an Adam Sandler movie. (Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though!)

      •  by  Brandon

        Probably a safe precaution.

        As for Cheryl and Michael, you are obviously trying to anger people with your reviews.

        As for me, this is the best non-Disney/Pixar kids movie (Come to think of it, there’s not many non-Disney/Pixar kids movies out there). Better than a good portion of all the Disney movies out there.

  13.  by  JoyousMN

    Best movie I’ve seen in a long time! By the (very awesome) ending it began to remind me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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  15.  by  Aaron

    the unflappably happy Unikitty

    I see her more as “flappably happy”

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