Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman and Charlie Day
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date: February 14th
There’s something inherently cynical about using a toy range as the basis for a movie. Sure, blockbusters inevitably lead to a variety of tie-ins. But reverse engineering it so that an established brand becomes the basis for a blockbuster—and its then inevitable movie tie-ins—seems like capitalism at its ugliest. It is a reality though—movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and Battleship have all mined at the nostalgia of teens and twenty-somethings to create movies that have been as boisterously successful at the box-office as they are shallow in creativity.
The Lego Movie changes everything though. What the others were void in, it lives for: imagination. An every day blue-collar worker, Emmet Brickowski lives in Brickville and builds with bricks sticking fastidiously to a manual made out of bricks. After falling down a construction-site hole, he’s told that he’s part of a prophecy that sees him as “The Special One” who must use the “Piece of Resistance” to stop evil Lord Business from destroying all the Lego realms with a mysterious weapon known only as the Kragle and possibly meeting omnipotent entity “The Man Upstairs”. Joining him are a team of Master Builders including, but not limited to: Wyldstyle—not a DJ name, Vitruvious, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and Shaquille O’Neal. Sound great? It is.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller pull off a marvel of a movie where it so easily could’ve verged into Chipmunk territory. They relish in subverting established brands and characters—unlike their big-screen brothers; Superman, Batman and Green Lantern are actually fun!—while writing a love letter to anyone who was never afraid to put a square peg in a round hole. They take swings at the very consumer industry that sees a movie like this get greenlit in the first place; gunning down laugh-track comedy TV shows, Taco Tuesday, coffee culture and self-involved “Your life is great!” pop music. They let Liam Neeson be funny.
The animation, as rudimentary as it is, is astoundingly impressive. The worlds are genuinely immersive—the 3D is worth the extra hit to the pocket—and the action is absolutely full on—when heads and limbs are interchangeable, dismemberments and decapitations are fair game.
The casting, too, is spot-on. As Emmet, Chris Pratt is ideal as the nice-but-dim every man, being both funny and likeable. It’s his supporting cast that really get to let loose, none more so than Neeson whose Bad Cop/Good Cop is a beautifully clever and hilarious play on his tough-guy persona that may end up landing him as many comedy roles as Taken got him work decking Eastern Europeans. Will Arnett (super-angsty and kind of a dick Batman), Nick Offerman (Pacific Rim-style Jaeger pirate Metal Beard), Will Ferrell (maniacal and order-driven Lord Business) and Morgan Freeman (reassuring honey-toned Vitruvius) are just a selection of the many magnetic highlights on show.
The Lego Movie is a win on both fronts: it spreads an admirable message that celebrates individuality while all the time remaining on-brand. It has some third-act exposition problems but it’s nothing too deterring and won’t stop it from becoming one of the most re-watchable and quotable movies in years . Everything, indeed, is awesome.