‘The LEGO Movie’ Review
"Everything is Awesome!"
Much has been said about our recent cinema kowtowing to nerds. From the massive success of 'The Avengers' to the ill-fated sci-fi odes of 'Paul.' (Anyone remember 'Paul?') The nerds have won. But whither the spaz?
Take a moment to remember the spaz. The hyperactive, highly-excitable enthusiast who can barely stay in one place for longer than sixty seconds and makes a little bit of a mess of things with his chaotic energy. 'The LEGO Movie' is the film for that person. From its opening frame to its surprisingly heartfelt conclusion, 'The LEGO Movie' has a bright and brash, candy-colored go go go dynamism that crackles with a glorious alacrity set to the tempo of the classroom's biggest and most disruptive spaz.
Even I, a sedentary Methuselah laden with excess flesh felt the need to spring from my critics' seat and charge around the screening room shouting “SPACESHIP!” at the top of my lungs at the picture's conclusion. This is a mark, I believe, of good filmmaking.
But this is key: the movie is deceptive. It may seem messy, but it is actually quite crafty and clever in its approach. Not just in its design and its sound effects (more on that in a bit), but in the zing-heavy, joke-a-minute script.
Our plot concerns Emmet (voiced by 'Parks and Recreation' star Chris Pratt), a follow-the-rules everyman in a LEGO city. He's peppy and proud and keeps his car in the right lane and watches the right shows and doesn't let a stray thought enter his mind. He is a cog (a brick?) in the society ruled by President Business (Will Ferrell) who, as a villain, has nefarious plans.
Part of what makes 'The LEGO Movie' neat is that the “bad guy,” as it were, is intertwined with an 'Idiocracy'-esque society, and in order to rise and save the day, Emmet must accept the path of finding the warrior within by coloring outside the lines – or, more specifically, getting inventive with LEGOs.
This is the eureka moment for writers/directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (of the first 'Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs' and '21 Jump Street'). They've been tasked with making a full-length commercial for LEGO (let's be honest), but what they've delivered is a great movie that a) never once denies this and b) in fact EXPLOITS what is great about the toy they are shilling by incorporating it into their story; by jamming it in to an already streamlined screenplay, if you'll allow me to continue the metaphor.
Peter Berg's 'Battleship' is a disgrace against humanity because it vampirically sucked the reach out of a known intellectual property. 'The LEGO Movie' shows building and playing and being creative with LEGOs in action. You gotta survive incoming fire from bad guys? Quick! Build something – and make sure it is strange and specific to this scenario, and with a little bit of flourish, so the good guys survive with style.
That level of creativity is blasting at full volume and hyper speed during every scene of this movie. (Oh, and with a mythos about a "Master Builder" it may just be a big homage to Henrik Ibsen, but who knows?)
The plot of 'The LEGO Movie,' apart from a nifty third-act twist, is fairly standard. What makes it the best wide-release film of 2014 so far (yeah, yeah, February, I know, but still) is its attitude and attention to detail. The balance of high/low is quite striking. Its action set pieces feature a tremendous amount of pop, but the characters, by their nature, must be blocky and somewhat spare of flourishes. Add to this the amusing soundscapes (well-mixed explosions with George Carlin-esque mouth noises) and the experience remains a wholly unpredictable collage.
As someone forced to sit through so many inelegant phoned-in kiddie films, something like 'The LEGO Movie' is a gift from above. The pummeling, recurring theme is “Everything is Awesome!” While it is meant tongue-in-cheek, I tend to agree.
'The LEGO Movie' opens in theaters on February 7.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.