The Lego Movie (2014) Film Review, a film directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, and Nick Offerman.
As soon as it was announced that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the guys behind such great properties as Clone High, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and 21 Jump Street, were making The Lego Movie, I was ecstatic. Lord and Miller keep tackling projects that, in anybody else’s hands, would likely be terrible since they don’t possess the duo’s clever comedic sensibilities. The duo turned what is essentially a picture book into one of the best animated films of the 2000s, and made a cheesy 80s drama into one of the funniest comedies in recent years. They’ve done it again with The Lego Movie, taking on a project that could have easily fallen into crass commercialism and turning it into the most inventive film to hit theaters in a long time.
Chris Pratt leads the film as Emmett, an everyman Lego who becomes the Special. He’s the only one who can stop the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying the Lego World as they know it. Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Liam Neeson, and Nick Offerman round out the rest of the cast. The Lego Movie’s greatest strength is in this group ensemble, as all the characters play off each other incredibly well, and each has a distinct personality. A lot has been made of Will Arnett’s portrayal of Batman (and rightfully so, because that casting is a stroke of genius), but I was laughing hardest whenever Alison Brie or Charlie Day appeared as Uni-Kitty and Benny, respectively. The film utilizes the “band of differently skilled people/misfits gathering together” trope – admittedly, one of my favorite tropes – and plays it perfectly, reminding me of the group dynamic of another stellar animated film, ParaNorman.
The animation in The Lego Movie is, at times, unbelievable. The amount of detail and work that must have gone into it is nothing less than staggering. It’s a cool blend of CGI and stop-motion that’s essentially seamless, and it uses the Lego pieces at its disposal in creative and interesting ways. There are scenes that take place in the ocean in which I couldn’t stop looking at the water, trying to understand how they even managed to animate it.
The themes of The Lego Movie are universal enough that even non-Lego fanatics should find something to enjoy. Big fans of Lego will likely be having mini-freakouts throughout the film, gushing excitement over seeing the sets they grew up with (this might be telling of my age demographic, but a quick shout-out to Bionicle is what did it for me). There’s a great deal of licensed characters making cameos in minifigure form, but they never distract from the main story, and are always very funny.
If there is a flaw to The Lego Movie, it’s that its existence is due to the desire to sell a product. This is playfully skewed by Lord and Miller during the film, and they get to have their cake and eat it, too. It’s a film theoretically at war with itself, both endorsing the free expression of ideas and the rigid obedience of instructions. While that sounds inconsistent, it actually works like magic, simply because that’s exactly what Legos allow you to do. One character can see Legos as “toys,” and another can see them as a “sophisticated interlocking brick system,” and both of them can be right. There isn’t a “correct” way to use Legos, and Lord and Miller take that concept and run with it.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have once again taken a seemingly one-note property and turned it on its head, creating a product stronger than anyone could have imagined. Is the film meant to sell toys? Sure. But when those toys are as awesome as Legos, does that really matter?
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