Awesome is as awesome does, and in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The Lego Movie…“everything is awesome!” It’s okay, I’ll wait as you damage your vocal cords for the next 24 hours. Back from the sing-along session? Awesome. Anyways, the creators of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs have rolled out an animated classic that combines the heart of Disney with the intellect of Pixar. Similar to the Toy Story films, The Lego Movie takes us back to our childhood, where our imagination ran rampant, randomized at every creative turn, boldly reinventing what had already been reinvented a thousand times over…but bigger and better! Like the recent Marvel and Fast & Furious films, The Lego Movie is a franchise blockbuster that’s totally comfortable in its own wacky skin, fully confident that its audience is digging what they paid top dollar for. But The Lego Movie doesn’t just settle for laughs, cool cameos and unbridled fun — it goes the extra mile to develop characters, to make social commentary that matters to us all, and finally to pay tribute to a pop culture past that continues to shape our creativity to this day. Yep, The Lego Movie is truly something special.
Much like Wreck-It Ralph, The Lego World is actually a universe comprised of different realms based off infamous LEGO toy sets. In the capital world lives an ordinary construction worker, Emmit Brickowski, played by everybody’s favorite who-is-he-again-and-why-isn’t-he-famous-yet? actor, Chris Pratt. Pratt totally succeeds at pulling off the tractable Average Joe archetype that says “yes” to everyone and has no individual goals of his own. Brickowski’s only original idea is a double decker couch, inspired by bunk beds of all contraptions. Yeah…*face palm* away. But little does the audience and our protagonist know that he’s actually a lot more capable, creative, and intelligent than previously assumed. All Emmit needs is a little encouragement, and he gets plenty in the form of an Avengers-style fellowship: Superman, Batman, The Green Lantern, Charlie Day being his incredible Charlie Day-self as an ’80s spaceman, a bipolar unicorn-kitty (Alison Brie), Morgan Freeman as the saintly voice of Vitruvius the Wizard, and a tough-spirited freedom fighter named WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks). These special individuals, known as the “Master Builders,” have joined forces to combat the tyranny raining down on them by the evil Mr. Business (Will Ferrell) and his dastardly anti-freewill regime.
I’ll skip the plot specifics like Vitruvius’ prophecy, Emmit’s reluctant role as “The Special” (think Neo’s “The One” title from The Matrix), and a rather hilarious if CW-ish love triangle between Emmit, WyldStyle and Batman (Will Arnett). The only thing you need to know is that even though the narrative recycles the always workable “rebels vs. evil dictatorship” trope, it does so with respect and style, not to mention using the familiar ground to carve out some vital messages of its own. Some of the characters, naturally, don’t get their due exploration even though there’s quite a roster of them. As likable and kick-ass as WyldStyle is, she doesn’t exactly pass the Bechdel test and is ultimately reduced to a woman hung-up on love. Overall, however, the film’s jubilant spirit and unexpected twists always keep you on edge and in-the-moment. Visually, The Lego Movie is one of those films you secretly want to watch in slow-motion, taking in every animated piece in the frame to either gush over or spot out some subtle reference to pop culture heyday.
The film’s third act is a huge departure from where movies of this ilk typically find themselves in the final stretch. Without spoiling what happens, all I’ll say is that if you don’t walk away from this film with a closer sense of self, I really have to question your humanity. The Lego Movie also challenges the notion that a fictitious universe must be interacted exactly the way the original artist intends it to. Honestly, if you restrict the public’s access to your art, why put it on display in the first place? Questions and ideas like these grow in your mind as you leave the theater, but what stays with you is the film’s profound nature. It is one of the few animated movies in the past decade that doesn’t position itself as original from the outset but simply is because of the way it expresses its unoriginality. That might be a conflicting statement, but it’ll make sense once you see this animated gem.
Colorful and heartfelt, fascinating and involving, thoroughly quotable and intellectually sound, The Lego Movie stands tall as the best film of 2014 so far. It may not have the “wow” factor or progressiveness that made Frozen the biggest animated success story in ages, but it’s another reminder that the genre is moving in the right direction so long as terrific talent is involved. When a movie cast feels like its having the time of its life from frame one, you know you’ve stepped into something that’s worth far more than box office numbers. Playing everywhere nationwide, The Lego Movie doesn’t just deserve your time — it cherishes it.
Check out The Lego Movie trailer below: