The Lego Movie is the classic “Hero’s Journey” story of Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), a self-described regular, ordinary guy who loves popular bands, the most popular TV show, and following the instructions. However, he must learn to be creative under the tutalige of Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) in order to become the Special, a Master Builder prophersized by Vitruvius (Mogran Freeman). Joined by other Master Builders, including Batman (Will Arnett) and Benny the 1980s Spaceman (Charlie Day), Emmet’s goal is to stop President Business (Will Ferrell) from ending the world.
Full of joy and heart, The Lego Movie is the third feature by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller after the excellent Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. The duo are developing a signature style, one that features a mix of rapid-fire gags and relationship-focused storytelling. Their knack for taking on pre-existing source material is also perhaps most impressive here, since Lego doesn’t have a built in narrative like a book or TV adaptation, or other toylines like Transformers.
However, by taking the spirit of Lego, creativity, and building (sorry) the entire film around it, Lord and Miller make this feel like a story that could only be told with Lego. That feeling is embodied by the character of Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), who has an opposite personality, the Good Cop, on the other side of his head!. Of course, there is a parade of cameo appearances by some of our favorite icons in Lego form, including Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders), and Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), joining the film’s original characters.
There is something for everyone in this film, and there are so many jokes that if one doesn’t land for you, there’s one or two right behind it that probably will. The comedic standout is Will Arnett’s Batman, who encapsulates the kind of humor on display here. Kids will laugh at his self-proclaimed coolness and that he only builds in black, adults will get a kick out of his preference for brooding music.
Of course, all of this comes together in a variety of imaginative worlds, from Emmet’s hometown of Bricksburg to the Wild West and beyond. Seeing the way this universe comes together is fascinating, and one of the big treats of the film. The animation style also helps. It’s almost completely computer animated, but the animation is made to look as true to real life Lego bricks as possible. There are mold lines, plastic gloss, and imperfections, and even the stop motion style of movement all contribute to the feeling that the world in the film actually exists somewhere in real life. Lego fans young and old will especially find a lot to love here, from The Matrix-like building sequences, to references to real Lego products. However, I don’t think a lack of Lego knowledge will negatively impact anyone’s enjoyment.
Not talking about this film in a more specific fashion is difficult, because there are so many fun surprises within the film. There is a remarkable amount of substance in the film, but mainly because the majority of the film is so light-hearted it’s easy to take for granted. Emmet and Wyldstyle are both well-rounded characters, and can be role models for both boys and girls. They are confident about who they think they are, but aren’t afraid to admit they aren’t quite sure what that is. It’s hard to express the depth of the relationships in the film, but the use of Batman as a foil is genius. The bedrock of The Lego Movie is a strong message of creativity for kids and parents alike, and it’s hard to walk out of the film and not want to make something.
Perhaps stemming from my own lifelong love of those plastic bricks, The Lego Movie worked for me on every level. But it truly is a fantastic film, and a must-see for parents, kids, and those in touch with their inner child. Everything is awesome.
The Lego Movie opens today.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan has been writing thoughtful film reviews and pop culture commentary on and off for over a decade. He spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area. His other interests include comic books, coffee, experimental beer, discovering new music, and books.