My Cinema

23 February 2014

Not Just Following Instructions – The Lego Movie

By // Cinema

LEGO

It’s a little difficult to laud praise upon something that is a shamelessly transparent commercial. But seeing as it has a near perfect score everywhere you read about it, I don’t feel so bad calling The Lego Movie a really good film.

What intrigued me about this movie, right off the bat, is how it takes some really vicious jabs at its own business and society in general. The film opens with our main character, Emmet (Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt), mired in a loop of constant conformity partially due to his non-existent personality. Starting off, the audience is treated to a day in the life of Emmett which manages to criticize western culture in a few short minutes. Foreboding political information is blocked out and ignored due to distracting corporate sitcoms. Complacency with the world’s current state is reinforced by current pop hits (in the movie this is done by the ridiculously catchy song Everything is Awesome). It was surprising to see such disturbing themes about conformist and consumer culture in a children’s movie that was produced by a huge toy corporation.

Suddenly, the plot kicks in and everything, from that point on, moves at a breakneck pace. Emmett is immediately recognized as a chosen one because he touched something shiny and it attaches itself to him (remember kids, shiny things may look nice to touch, but they will irrevocably change your life forever). This makes him the target of the film’s antagonist President Business (Will Ferrell makes some real callbacks to his Mugatu role in Zoolander). He sends his lead henchman Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), a two-faced cop with a chair throwing compulsion, to catch him but he is saved by a group of rebels. The rest of the film plays out like a game of cat and mouse with constant comedic action and witty dialogue peppered throughout.

What I wasn’t too surprised by, but was happy to see, was how funny the movie ends up being. The Phil Lord and Christopher Miller team used their experience on previous joke-a-second comedies like 21 Jump Street, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and the cult series Clone High, and replicated that style here. They also tactfully deal with a lot of really mature themes in a way that all ages can relate to and don’t undermine the intelligence of the audience (even though it will mostly be made up of kids). The comedy, which pops up both visually and in the hilarious dialogue, ranges from both clever to juvenile and is supported by incredibly strong cast of characters.

It’s difficult to spotlight the talent in this movie because there are a huge variety of characters with some strong talent voicing them. A lot of attention is going to go to Will Arnett’s hilarious portrayal of Batman (which may be the best acted version of Batman since Adam West). He has a great voice for it, adds a real touch of irony to the character as he mercilessly mocks himself. He also gets the best song in the whole movie (trust me, you’ll agree when you hear it). My personal favourite character was the spaceship obsessed spaceman who is spastically portrayed by Charlie Day. His character is a bit of a one-note joke but it builds up to one of the funniest moments in the film. There are a lot more notable characters within the film but I’ll stop there or else I’ll spend the rest of the review talking about them.

All of this is complimented by a visual style that is impressive to see. Through the use of CG, the film’s creators manage to halfway mimic stop motion animation almost perfectly. Characters move in a sort of staggering fashion that is almost strange to look at, especially in some action scenes. Additionally, the animators have filled the frame with famous Lego characters and landmarks. Not only are the featured characters some of the most popular intellectual properties that exist, but one could spend hours scanning the background for all the little things going on (you’re gonna need a pause button because things usually move way too fast to see).

While the movie is strong in a lot of categories, it does sort of ditch the satire it had at the opening. In the end, the film gets a little schmaltzy and ends up settling for a typical “kids movie” moral of “everyone is special”. Lego even ridicules itself for a portion of the movie by villainizing those that are too attached to following instructions. This appears to be a shot at their recent business strategy of selling Lego kits that recreate pop culture but often leave little room for creativity. This criticism eventually gets turned around and the film ends up stating that any form of Lego building is acceptable. Even the song Everything is Awesome changes from mocking an aspect of culture to a credits roll victory tune. So, in the end, Lego effectively creates a movie length commercial that promotes every aspect of their product (even the ones that contradict each other). That being said, it’s still the most entertaining commercial you will see so far this year.

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