Brushing up to the temptation to be just a giant ad for the world’s most famous toys, The LEGO Movie builds upon a solid foundation of comedy and…SPACESHIP!
LEGO might be the greatest thing ever. Based on a toy that takes its name from the Danish leg godt, which means “play well”, The LEGO Movie maintains this philosophy of bricolage. Writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller burst onto the scene in 2009 with the disarmingly funny Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and their follow-up 21 Jump Street was more side-splitty than it had any right to be. The duo maintains this same sense of irreverent madness with this latest property, a film that has no notion of what it means to work inside the box.
The evil Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) has failed to unleash the Kragle, stopped only by the wizard Vitruvius (who else but Morgan Freeman?), who is blinded in the process. Vitruvius warns his nemesis of a prophecy, in which a “Special” will one day deliver the Piece of Resistance and put a stop to Lord Business’s plans once and for all. Years later, ordinary and obedient construction worker Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is mistaken for the Special when he falls into a hole and becomes attached to the mythical Piece. Pursued by Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), Emmett is rescued by Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and they set out across the various bricked lands to save the day with the other Master Builders, unique minifigures who can construct anything out of the materials they have available.
The LEGO Movie is undoubtedly a large promotion for the company, showcasing a number of their products, even if its in a self-deprecating fashion (when referencing the Fabuland or non-system lines, for example). Yet like many of its animated contemporaries, it embraces a multi-generational audience, occasionally forgetting that children may be watching. After setting the rules of the universe, playing things by the instruction book as it were, Lord and Miller follow the spirit of their film and break them repeatedly. Once the film embraces the crazy, it’s a journey into every wacky mash-up that children of all ages have concocted on their lounge room floors. Batman and Star Wars characters interact as naturally as having robots in the Old West, and a journey to Cloud Cuckoo Land (in Middle Zealand, of course) is the kind of free-for-all that is filled with more cameos than a Muppet film.
The animation may not look like it, but the state-of-the-art approach gives modern computer generated imagery a retro feel. Initially aping the stilted stop-motion feel of brick films, animation supervisor Chris McKay soon takes us on an odyssey through a world that was built brick-by-brick. Seas are textured of individual bricks, constructs are made out of everyday items and glue is the natural enemy of the constructible. So convincing is this brick world, that when the film does take a sharp turn narratively, some audiences may be left feeling unsure as to whether it belongs in the same film.
The spirit of The LEGO Movie encourages adults and kids alike to think outside the box, and with the debut theatrical feature for the world’s favourite toy, Lord and Miller have done just that. It might spike LEGO sales around the world, but it will also embiggen your fun zones, brick your negativity and interlock your hearts.