Yes, it’s only February, but I’m gonna make a prediction anyway: The Lego Movie will end up being the best animated film of the year. And possibly also one of the best overall comedies of the year. It’s that good.
Voice cast: Chris Pratt (Emmet), Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle), Will Ferrell (President Business), Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius), Will Arnett (Batman), Nick Offerman (Metalbeard), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop/Good Cop), and several other well-known celebrities in small roles.
What’s it about? The unremarkable Emmet (a generic-looking Lego figure) learns he is The Special—the only Master Builder who can save the Lego universe from the evil President Business. But in order to carry out his destiny, he must rely on new friends to help him unleash his creativity and not be so dependent upon instructions.
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Let me say upfront that I don’t come from a Lego household. My brother and I played with Fisher Price Little People (the original wooden kind, not those new plastic monstrosities!) and Star Wars action figures. Sure, we had some Legos, but they weren’t really our main thing.
Fast-forward a couple of decades. Now I have a two-year-old son who just got his first Lego set (a pirate ship, naturally) and seems to dig it. And I recently witnessed a friend’s school-age son building a bullet train out of a complex Lego set, leaving me quite impressed. So while I’ve been warming up to the little bricks as of late, I want to make it clear that by no means do you have to have any experience with Legos (or even like them) in order to be entertained by this movie. Nor do you have to have kids. As with Toy Story 3 or Up, you basically just have to be a human being to enjoy The Lego Movie.
Things kick off with everyman Emmet, a construction worker who seems anything but unique, going about his typical routine. He, like his fellow citizens of the Lego universe, spends his day working hard, reading instructions, building stuff, knocking it back down, thinking happy thoughts, watching mindless entertainment like “Where’s My Pants?” and singing peppy tunes like “Everything is Awesome!” However, after he accidentally stumbles upon the “piece of resistance” buried deep underneath the construction grounds, he’s heralded as The Special—a Lego universe savior as foretold by an ancient prophecy.
Soon Emmet learns that everything is, in fact, NOT awesome. The tyrant President Business is planning to destroy the Lego universe, and a band of rebels is convinced that only Emmet (since he’s The Special) can save them. But Emmet has never thought for himself. He’s always built everything just as the instructions say and behaved just as President Business suggests, so doesn’t know what to do without such guidance. Whereas his new friend Wyldstyle (whose name brings with it one (two!) of the best jokes in the movie) can quickly dream up and pull together any crazy combination of pieces she needs to get herself out of a jam. Joined by a not-as-smooth-as-the-Christian-Bale-version Batman, a bent-on-revenge pirate named Metalbeard, a nondescript ’80s astronaut and countless other recognizable (Superman! Gandalf! Wonder Woman!) and not-so-recognizable (Uni-Kitty?) figures, Emmet and Wyldstyle race against the clock to stop the president’s plan. (That plan, by the way, is ingenious. I just can’t get over how impressed I was by this movie!)
Writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) could’ve easily—and, in a way, understandably—churned out a ho-hum, by-the-numbers kiddie flick about a kinda random construction-toy franchise. Instead, they made a high-energy, visually stunning, hilarious and intelligent movie that people of all ages are going to want to see again and again. There are so many clever details throughout, I know I must have missed the majority of them and therefore want to see the film a second time just to watch what’s going on in the background of every scene.
What I also found admirable is that The Lego Movie‘s message seems to go against what drives business for the toy franchise: throw out the instructions and just build whatever the heck comes to mind. Be creative! Use your imagination! Don’t be shackled what The Man says you have to build!
Hmm, how is that going to sell another Lord of the Rings playset?
But there’s a happy medium that the movie settles on, and it’s one that involves melding together the best aspects of both conformity and individuality. The final act drives this point home in an unexpected way that some people might not enjoy as much as this mother of a young boy did. Yep, that means there was a bit of the ol’ heartstring-pulling near the end. How in the hell did The Lego Movie make me both laugh out loud and bust out the Kleenex?!? I’m still in shock. In short, the only thing unoriginal and uninspiring about this movie is its title.
So if you’re a fan of pop-culture references and wry societal commentary, you’re going to like The Lego Movie. And make sure you stay through the end credits to hear Batman’s soulful “Untitled Self Portrait”. . . though it’s “Everything is Awesome!” that you’ll be singing afterward for days and days.