Everything is awesome in one of the most entertaining family films of 2014 so far. R.G. checks it out.
Rolling eyes and a sigh of scepticism emerged from my face as I watched the very first trailer for this Warner Bros.-produced film based on the extremely popular Lego toy line. It’s hard not to be cynical when it comes to movies adapted from toys. Yes, Transformers and G.I. Joe are commercially successful but they are far and away from being good films. Fortunately, The Lego Movie is a delightful surprise as it offers something unexpected behind the corporate name. From the directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, this film contains imaginative animation, a perfect celebrity voice cast, smart comedy, and a surprising sense of sentimentality in its otherwise clichéd plot. This is 2014’s first good summer blockbuster. And it’s not even May yet…
Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is a regular construction worker who follows a mundane life full of instructions in a city run by Lord Business (Will Ferrell). He longs for companionship through his to-do list but he’s just forgettable because of how normal he is. One day, he comes across a mysterious woman named WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks) scavenging near the construction site, where he accidentally discovers a relic called The Piece of Resistance. After being rescued by Wyldstyle from being detained by Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), Emmet joins a group of “Master Builders”, consisting of mainly heroes from different properties led by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who have the ability to build anything without any instructions, and he is mistaken to be the “Special”, destined to stop Lord Business’ evil plans. Unfortunately, Emmet disappoints since he has no creativity in him whatsoever…
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are known for their fast-paced execution of their action scenes, rapid fire jokes, and their ability to balance comedy with heart. There are a lot of jokes in the film and they all hit the right spot, but the heartfelt moments are at just the right amount, and are sometimes built up from the constant amount of gags thrown at you. Most of the comedy is visual and it works fantastically well when it comes to its frenetic set pieces. The animation is CGI but it looks deceptively stop-motion, and I was astonished at how amazing it looked and felt. It does occasionally suffer from being too overcrowded with detail, especially when viewed in 3D, but I would imagine that animating the film was an incredible challenge. They got into the mind-set that Lego is about creativity and they take advantage of the concept as much as they possibly can. You believe that its set in the Lego universe and you are amazed by how every single block is used to make the world feel like its alive and breathing, from the way the characters move to the clever interactions with their Lego-made surroundings.
As for the plot, it’s the everyday guy being mistaken or destined for something great. Its a narrative that has been done to death but it is easily forgiven and justified by the final act of the film, which I won’t dare spoil. Even if predictable, it is easy to get behind the story because of how emotional it is and how loveable the characters are, who are backed by a wonderful voice cast. Casting celebrity voices is never a bad thing but most animated projects hire these people for their names rather than their talents. Here, the actors sound like they were having a blast and completely sink into their roles, and I was especially surprised that Neeson, an actor who is mostly known for being in more action-oriented or dramatic films, had impressive comedic range. The characters here feel like a parody of the usual archetypes we’ve seen before; each have their set roles like Emmet being the reluctant hero, Vitruvius being the wise mentor, Wyldstyle being the love interest, and Batman (Will Arnett) being the badass rival. But they are mostly pastiches, with the Dark Knight being the best example as he is an over-exaggerated version of his brooding portrayals. Such things make the characters a lot more interesting.
Of course, this is a film based on Lego, so it is chock-full of references and cameos based on the company’s different toy lines. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Teenage Ninja Turtles, Harry Potter, and many others get a spot, with DC Comics having the most prominent presence being a Warner Bros. production. This is the first cinematic release that has Justice League members Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman in one film, not forgetting a quick Flash cameo. Madness.
With a good box office turnover and a heap of praise from critics, The Lego Movie should teach other producers how to adapt films from toy products or other properties. It took the concept of building plastic blocks and used it to its advantage, providing unique and fantastic animation whilst expanding upon them with memorable protagonists, action scenes, jokes, and a winning voice cast. Its just an overall entertaining family film, and one of the more well-done and passionate toy tie-ins ever made.