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REVIEW: The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Chris Miller – 2014)

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Forget about the Bible, the real story of creation is contained within The Lego Movie.  Moving at the speed of the imagination it’s a hyperactive adventure that breathlessly moves from crazy to bonkers.  Hold onto your butts because if there’s one film based on a multibillion dollar toy empire you see this year, make it this brick-fest.

The evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) gets his hands on a mysterious item called ‘The Kragle’ and the wizard, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), prophesizes that ‘The Special’ will one day rise to stop the object being used for evil.  Eight years later, an ordinary Lego builder named Emmett (Chris Pratt) is perceived to be the Special and recruited to stop Lord Business.

Co-directors and screenwriters Phil Lord and Chris Miller go three from three with The Lego Movie and prove that they are the biggest kids in Hollywood (they previously directed the excellent Cloudy with and Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street). The duo reaches the apex of joy with The Lego Movie.  The action sequences, gags and pop culture references fly past at light speed, and repeat viewing will no doubt provide more to discover.  Lord and Miller take full advantage of the licensing opportunities the Lego universe presents that enables Batman (Will Arnett), NBA All-Stars, Gandalf, Abraham Lincoln, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, William Shakespeare, and more, to all co-exist in the madness.  So many bombshell cameos drop that it feels like you’re continually arriving at a surprise party.  There’s also a huge nostalgia kick because Lord and Miller take the opportunity to put over fifty years of Lego’s history on the screen with various kits, vehicles and spaceships on display.  The results of this mash up is an explosion of popular culture that crescendos with various jokes such as a parody of inane pop music with the earworm ‘Everything Is Awesome’ as well as a genius satire of mainstream television sitcoms with a popular series in the Lego world called ‘Where Are My Pants?’  The Lego Movie is targeted at kids, obviously, but it retains that fine balance of humour and heart that was thrown down as the template for the computer animation renaissance that began with Pixar’s Toy Story.  Keep the adults entertained more than the kids, that’s the basic idea, but The Lego Movie acts like a great leveler and it has the ability to turn an entire room of people of various ages into giggling bundles of happiness.

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Of course, there is a message underneath all the mirth and it’s the usual kids flick catnip of letting your freak flag fly, believing in yourself and following your dreams.  It’s enough to make a seasoned toddler at the cinema spurt its first words “yeah, I get it!”  Apart from the familiar morals present in the story, there’s a really nice bit of subtext about the power of creativity and learning to use your imagination.  Also, for a film produced by a toy conglomerate it’s surprisingly anti-corporate but I did want to horde copious amounts of Lego afterwards so for all the people who think this film is just a commercial for toys; it most certainly is, and it works.  But it’s Lego, and it’s one of the only toys left that allows little kids (and lots of big kids) to use their minds to create worlds where Superman can hang out with a bunch of pirates and spacemen from the 1980s.  And that’s where The Lego Movie succeeds the most, by reminding us of the art of ‘play’ and the ability to let our thoughts manifest in cubist creations.

The voice cast adds to the fun with Ferrell being delightfully evil as the big bad overlord.  Pratt makes Emmett a loveable simpleton with unabashed enthusiasm that’s like an infectious disease of positivity, and Elizabeth Banks plays off Pratt nicely as the butt kicking Wyldstyle.  Lord and Miller indulge the vocal skills of Freeman as an elder wizard to subvert his noble standing as the voiceover guy and let him get a little silly.  The rest of the cast of colourful characters have voices big enough to match their personalities with Charlie Day making his 1980s Space guy screaming ‘SPACESHIP’ unforgettable, Alison Brie is superb as the perky and slightly repressed Unikitty, and Nick Offerman is wonderfully over the top as the pirate Metal Beard.  The little dark gem of The Lego Movie is Arnett’s interpretation of Batman that’s a strong contender for the best representation of the character on the big screen.

The true beauty of The Lego Movie is the commitment to replicating the stop-motion look to ensure every character and piece of the environment moves with the physics of the universe and the articulation points of the minifigures.  Everything is made of different types of the company’s catalogue of bricks.  Even the water that comes out of Emmet’s shower is little Lego studs.  The attention to detail of how everything operates in a Lego world is brilliant, and the look is fashioned to perfection by the Australian digital effects studio Animal Logic.  The authentic handcrafted look boggles the mind as to how they masquerade the fact that it was all built in a computer.  Part of the elation of the film is getting completely immersed in Lego environment and forgetting about ‘how’ it was made.  The way light is muted as it bounces off the plastic bricks, the little imperfections on well-worn characters, and even the little instruction booklets littered throughout the world push you deeper into the Lego shaped rabbit hole.

The Lego Movie is a wonderful cinematic gift that lights the bonfire of our imaginations thanks to the mad genius of Lord and Miller at play. 

[rating=4] and a half

Cameron Williams – follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW

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