Sunday, February 9, 2014

"The Lego Movie" (2014)

Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Ferrell
Written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Rated PG - Mild violence, peril, very mild suggestive themes
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Emmett (Chris Pratt) is your typical everyman construction worker. There's nothing special about him, though he often wishes there was. One day after work, he notices something odd at the construction site and discovers a woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) rooting around in the rubble, searching for a relic known as the Piece of Resistance.

Unfortunately for Wyldstyle, Emmett is the one who finds the piece and it melds itself permanently to his back. Wyldstyle is distressed to learn that Emmett is not a Master Builder, as the prophecy laid out by the leader of the resistance, Vetruvius (Morgan Freeman), stated that the man who finds the Piece of Resistance would be the greatest builder of all time, who could save the Lego world from Lord Business (Will Ferrell).

Business, it seems, has discovered some kind of ultimate weapon which will lock all the Legos into their current forms, destroying all creativity and imagination forever. Only Emmett, with the Piece of Resistance, can stop him. But how? Not only is Emmett not special, but he can't even bring himself to believe that he could be.

With the help of Wyldstyle, Batman (Will Arnett), Metal Beard (Nick Offerman) a robotic pirate, Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie) an ever-positive unicorn-cat hybrid, and Benny the 1980s astronaut (Charlie Day), Emmett must find the specialness inside him to stop Business and his henchmen Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) before all the Legos are frozen forever.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are a couple of very surprising filmmakers. They first surprised me with "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," then again with "21 Jump Street," two films I didn't really have high expectations for that ended up being far better than either probably deserved. Here, they've done it again by taking the simple and probably already over-done concept of creating an action/adventure comedy out of Legos.

The setup is simple: You have your everyman main character who might just be some prophesied hero who will save the day with his McGuffin. There are other people who probably should be the hero. And there's a whole bunch of villains and henchmen in their way. Lots of standard action/adventure and fantasy tropes at work here.

But Lord and Miller's incredibly clever and warm script takes all those tropes and makes sure that they're all wrapped up in new twists and hilarious jokes. The film is positively jam-packed full of clever little bits and gags, many of them dialogue based and delivered by the film's impeccable cast.

The movie is also much smarter than one might expect, with jokes about corporate overlords running every aspect of our lives, and even surveillance states. But the main thrust of the film is finding the imagination within everyone, and letting it flourish. All this is wrapped  up in a wildly fun tale created through a mixture of stop-motion photography of actual Legos and computer animation.

I suspect that adults may even have more fun with this film than their children for that reason alone. There's so much going on here, gags that young kids just won't get, that it feels like the movie was almost more designed for someone who grew up in the 80s rather than kids today. There's just mountains of absurdity going on in this film, like the grumpy builders throwing fruits and vegetables and dolphins at Emmett, or Abraham Lincoln's rocket chair, or Benny's inability to communicate with a voice-activated computer, or even jokes about Superman hating Green Lantern (I can relate).

But there are certainly enough jokes and physical hilarity for everyone to enjoy; the kids in the theatre when I saw it seemed to have a blast, but I was very laughing nearly the entire time.

And when the film comes to its final third-act twist, and it's finally revealed everything that's going on here, it might just be impossible not to break into a big smile. Lord and Miller have crafted a wonderfully entertaining film that gets at the heart of why Legos have been an enduring toy for decades and generations of children.

With a great cast, fine animation and a crackling script, I must recommend "The Lego Movie" wholeheartedly. Go see it.

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