Watching “The LEGO Movie” is like watching some daredevil act happening right before your eyes. It is not just the fact that directors and writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller managed to convince someone that a movie based on Legos was a good idea, but that the film refused to be a safe children’s film. “The LEGO Movie” will probably be regarded as one of the riskiest films Hollywood has bet on in a long time, but it pays off. “The LEGO Movie” is not only a fantastic movie, but also an important film that will be studied for years.
The best way to experience “The LEGO Movie” is blind, so if you wish to see the film I would advise you stop reading and go see it. Still, I will try to be as nondescript as possible in my review.
The film opens up with Emmet (Chris Pratt), an obscure construction worker living in an Orwellian city reminiscent of “1984,” brimming with happiness and order. After falling down a pit he is tasked with rescuing the LEGO universe with the help of Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the group of Master Builders, an ensemble of supporting characters and cameos that includes pirates, astronauts, animals, wizards and Batman. This quest will eventually lead Emmet to discover not only what makes him special, but also the secrets of the world in which he lives.
For a movie based on a toy line, “The LEGO Movie” takes liberties with all the cameos. It takes a lot of restraint to limit the characters, which makes the few characters who are more than cameos really shine. Easily the highlights of the film are Batman (Will Arnett) and Benny the 80s-era spaceman (Charlie Day). At first glance both of these characters seem to be one-joke characters, but they quickly turn into parodies of Hollywood itself. As Batman seems to be the only DC comics character that Warner Bros. seems to know what to do with, it is great to see this Batman act like a goof obsessed with himself and incapable of seeing his flaws. It is a great slapstick of the dark, brooding and frankly boring take on the character we have had in the past years. This makes “The LEGO Movie” the best Batman movie we have ever gotten. Benny is probably the emotional core of the film, but it is one of those situations where you have see it to believe it.
Cinematically, the film is a passion project; a clear labor of love in every frame. The film is a mixture of CGI fused with stop-motion animation to really accentuate the LEGO look and feel. At first this appearance is a bit glaring and makes the film really hard to look at, but after a few minutes you start to notice the smaller details, such as small fingerprints on the characters, which makes the film just a charm to watch. At times it feels like the film is just one big joke and the punch line is just around the corner, but it really just brings another level of depth to the movie.
The secret behind “The LEGO Movie” is right in the name. This is not a film where LEGOs are a core plot point, but it is a film about LEGO. It is a film whose focus is on LEGO’s importance to children and what it is used for. Oftentimes LEGO is cited as being the best toy for stimulating imagination, and this idea is what drives the film. Emmet’s entire arc revolves around him not having a single creative thought, but this arc is fueled by one of the best uses of the toys. All of this builds up to a final third act that is so flawlessly put together that I am convinced the film will be studied in film class on the deconstruction of narrative in years to come.
Although it is aimed at children, “The LEGO Movie” really is a perfect example of a film for anyone. The charming aesthetic helps infuse a childlike sense of play into the entire thing, but the screenplay and jokes are so smartly executed that I think they actually go beyond the average child’s comprehension. Most of the jokes make fun of the standard clichés that have taken over big Hollywood productions, so you really need a strong understanding of cinema to get full enjoyment out of this film. These jokes are only made funnier by the excellent voice work, especially since a lot of the fun comes from the surprise factor every time you hear a familiar actor or actress playing an iconic character.
Most of my complaints with the film boil down to small nitpicks. For example, the film eventually falls into the typical children’s film trap of getting a little too preachy when trying to evoke a message to the kids. My only other complaint is that my jaw eventually started hurting from laughing and smiling non-stop throughout the film, but like I said, I am just nitpicking at this point.
Probably the most confusing thing about “The LEGO Movie” are Phil Lord and Chris Miller. This pair has seemed to make a career out of taking dead franchises or once popular pieces of pop culture and turning them into blockbuster Hollywood pieces. They started with “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” then revived the “21 Jump Street” franchise. They have now made three fantastic films that really had no right to be as good as they were, so the biggest question should not be whether “The LEGO Movie” is good, but rather how do these two keep doing this?
“The LEGO Movie” is a minor miracle in film, which brutally mocks the standard Hollywood formula. It is not just a great film, but also one that both mocks its own existence and argues for it. Not content with making fun of itself, it has to point out all the problems with big-budget films we accept today and make them seem trivial. In this regard, “The LEGO Movie” is the hipster of Hollywood.
As someone who has spent most of his life studying film, “The LEGO Movie” is the reason why I am pursuing a career in film. Come the end of the year, I doubt you will see 10 better movies than “The LEGO Movie.”