Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Lego Movie

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Written by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

            The success of toy-based movies to this point has been…well…about what you’d expect out of toy-based movies, full of merchandising opportunities and not much else.  Meanwhile, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have been on a hot streak, after directing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, two movies that should’ve been awful but were instead hilarious.  And with The Lego Movie, they’re proving that you can throw them any license and it’ll turn out great.
            Emmett (Chris Pratt) is a normal construction worker who follows every rule, every instruction, and is perfectly ordinary.  Then he stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance and gets picked up by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who believes he’s the Special, the Master Builder who can save the universe.  And all the Master Builders will have to team up if they’re going to stop President Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying the world.
            Let’s start with the obvious necessity of a Lego movie: featuring Legos.  Yes, yes, it’s an obvious point, but it’s the sheer way this movie features Legos that’s incredible.  The characters pass through several worlds based on different sets, all of them distinctly different and interesting, but when they come together true magic happens.  The Master Builder scene (that’s been featured in trailers) is a good example, featuring everybody from NBA players to an 80s spaceman to Milhouse.  It could’ve just been done as a way to show off all the different sets that Lego has, go ask your parents to buy them right now, but they just flow into the movie, creating perfect jokes and great interactions.  And the other plus of this Lego movie is the animation.  It’s computer-generated to look like stop-motion, and crazily enough, it works.  And there’s the fact that everything is made out of Legos.  The Lego games tend to just have characters and important objects, while everything else is realistic.  Here?  The lasers are Legos.  The smoke clouds are Legos.  Hell, when Wyldstyle goes into Master Builder vision, the Lego pieces are marked with their actual piece numbers.  It’s a crazy attention to detail that pays off spectacularly.
            And all the detail would be nothing without a good story and plenty of good jokes, and this movie has both.  The story flows perfectly, with plenty of expected twists for a story like this, and then throwing in more than a few unexpected ones.  And the jokes are as rapid-fire as you’d expect, going from visual to verbal to wherever the movie can take things.  And they’re both helped by an incredible voice cast.  Everybody, from the main cast, to cameos such as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern, they’re all doing a perfect job.  Special notice must be played to Will Ferrell, who once again proves that he should probably switch over to voice acting, and Charlie Day as Spaceman Benny, who is quickly becoming one of those people I look forward to hearing in animated movies.

            The Lego Movie is a pleasant surprise for toy movies, and another hit for Lord and Miller.  Witty and interesting, it’s an early must-see for 2014.

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