Like almost every other American child, my two boys were raised in a house full of Lego bricks. With sets based upon film series like Star Wars and Harry Potter, my children spent many a happy hour using their imaginations to create new adventures. Although those years are now long behind them, it was with high hopes, and a fair bit of nostalgia, that we all went out to see The Lego Movie today, and I must say each one of us was very impressed with the flick. The animated film, which appears entirely crafted from Legos, follows the exploits of everyman Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) as he attempts to thwart the evil plans of President Business (Will Ferrel) who wants to glue down all of the mini-figs to keep them from building new things out of the bricks that make up their world. Aiding Emmet on his quest are a group of mini-figs known collectively as the Master Builders, which include Wildstyle, (Elizabeth Banks); Batman (masterfully voiced by Will Arnett); Benny, an 80’s era spaceman; and Metal Beard, a pirate created from a hodge-podge of recycled pieces. Together, Emmet’s sidekicks not only bravely battle evil but also help him to gain a better understanding of his own self-worth and unique gifts.
Two elements of the film really make it stand out compared to other films of this genre: the tone and the theme. The tone created by the writer/director team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller strikes the right balance of slapstick and seriousness. Unlike so many hyper-kinetic CG offerings of late, The Lego Movie mimics the comedic timing of early television’s Jack Benny, who understood that silence can often produce the loudest laughs. Knowing how to hold out the tension to its maximum level before releasing it is gift sadly unappreciated today but much on display here. It’s a strong testament to the filmmakers that the entire audience, from pre-schooler thru adult, often reacted with laughter to the same joke. This is in contrast to many recent kid’s films that try to keep the parents awake with hip pop-culture references that fly right over the heads of the children. Several of the clever asides were almost Monty Pythoneseque, including a great surprise cameo appearance that literally flies in from out of nowhere. Overall, it demonstrated that you don’t need to include profanity or toilet humor to be entertaining, which I found to be very refreshing.
Also to be commended was the handling of the films thematic elements. Once the messages concerning the negative effects of conformity and materialism are hammered home in the third act, the movie’s carefully crafted parallel plot structure clicked into place. It was deftly handled through a plot twist not alluded to in the movie’s trailers and came across sincerely without being overly preachy. I won’t spoil it here; but, by the end, the many subtle hints to the big reveal do suddenly become apparent to the viewer in an almost Sixth Sense sort of way. I do have to admit, I got a little choked up by the end of the movie as I recognized all the different ways the theme applied to our world today.
Realizing through often painful experience that what is enjoyed on the screen today will often be repeated ad nauseum on flatscreens and iPads tomorrow, rest assured The Lego Movie will prove itself multi-layered enough to survive repeated viewings due to the innovative and detailed ways Legos are employed in the set designs and effects. Fire, clouds and water are all effectively portrayed through the familiar little plastic pieces. Add to that the many top voice talents, including Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson, and you end up with a very high-quality kid’s movie that the child in all of us will enjoy.