I have no doubt 2014 will probably see bigger movies, more heartfelt movies, and if we are lucky, maybe even funnier movies. But when it comes to pure unbridled fun, I don’t see anything coming along this year to take the crown from the blinding brilliance of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s building-blockbuster The Lego Movie. As is becoming par for the course of the duo, Lord and Miller have taken a concept that should be utterly disposable and instead unearth everything wonderful about it. The Lego movie is a celebration of creativity and imagination, delivering a family film full of heart, humour and a whole lot of toys.
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a construction worker living within the Lego world’s bright and cheerful city. Buying into the cheery propaganda of the wonderfully named President Business (Will Farrell), Emmet faces each day with excitement and enthusiasm, despite the underlying fact that nobody loves him and there is absolutely nothing special or unique about him at all. Not even a little. Upon stumbling on an artefact that could prevent Business’ evil plans, he becomes the prophesised one known as ‘the Special’, and sets out on an adventure across the corners of the Lego world/catalogue with a group of resistance fighters. Also Batman.
There is something that is just undeniably cool about living in a world where cowboys, pirates, superheroes and spaceships can all exist with equal standing. The hodgepodge of themes is thrown together with a simplistic innocence (see aforementioned villain’s name) that channels the endless imagination of a child. Lord and Miller maintain that sense of liberation with a plot that feels like it could have been dreamt up by a 5 year old and elevate it with their signature punchy dialogue and playful acknowledgement of conventions.
While the blocky Legoites (?) may not be aware that they are a mass produced child plaything, the film never forgets that this is a world of toys. Mundane objects that have gotten mixed in with the Legonese (??), like Band-Aids or cue-tips, become strange and powerful artefacts. What brings it home though is the flawless animation by Animal Logic. Transparent plastic flames burst out in lieu of fire, waves of hard blue blocks roll along the ocean and pieces of paper are as thick as Emmet’s arm. By giving priority to what the figures and props represent rather than being functional, Animal Logic ensure the Legopians (???) look like toys brought to life, instead of half-baked CG designs. Amazingly, the style actually works quite well for action as well. Again they benefit from not needing to make sense physically, but it’s the explosion of colour and frantic movement that make for such gloriously vivid set-pieces. It also has to be said how cool it is to see the “Master Builders” take apart pieces of a vehicle mid-chase and build some bad-ass new contraption out of it.
With all the licenses Lego has had under their belt at one time or another, it’s only right that The Lego Movie capitalises on that Who Framed Roger Rabbit spot-the-iconic-character factor. There’s plenty of pop-culture cameos populating the Legosphere, and obviously the less you know going in the more fun they’ll be. I will, however, give one special mention to the particularly apt interpretation of Green Lantern (as voiced by Jonah Hill), which pretty well sums up how moviegoers might be feeling about the character after a certain Ryan Reynolds flop. As you may have guessed from the trailers though, there is one icon that does become a fully-fledged member of the cast. Will Arnett’s brilliant caricature of Batman plays the part of the hotshot looking down on the new guy in their merry little band. It should be a bridge too far, but instead the movie plays off the familiarity and adds some personality and laughter to a cookie-cutter role.
Between lead roles in this and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014 looks to be a promising year for Parks and Recreation alumni Chris Pratt. Even with Emmet’s defining obliviousness, Pratt’s charm can’t help but bubble up and make us love him. Emmet’s enthusiasm is infectious, and watching him being so especially not special, despite being the chosen one, makes for some good comedy and gives the story its heart. Smartly, The Lego Movie wraps its climax around Emmet’s wide-eyed love of everything, giving a strong message to sum it all up as well as bringing the character full circle.
Clearly this review is gushing, but there just isn’t much to fault. Perhaps it’s a little dependent on comedy that may not work as well on repeat viewing, so we can probably expect a lot of parents to be sick to death if this movie (and the signature song) once kids get their hands on the DVD. But even the most cynical and grumpy mums and dads are going to get a lot out of the sharp dialogue and the excitement of this world.
For all the colour and spectacle, the smart and bouncy script and the character depth of the Logolians (!) is never once compromised. More than a toast to Lego, Lord and Miller have used what could easily have been one long toy commercial as a celebration of creativity, the imagination of children, and just about every pop-culture icon they could get their hands on. If you want a movie that’s just plain fun and will have you smiling for days, The Lego Movie is a homerun.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10