Movie Review – Lego Movie, The

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– Summary –

Director :  Phil Lord + Christopher Miller
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :   Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Jadon Sand.
Approx Running Time :   100 Minutes
Synopsis:  A Blandy McBlanderson Lego minifigure must join forces with a cavalcade of other characetrs to stop the dastardly Lord Business from controlling the entirety of Legoland.
What we think : Gut-bustingly hilarious animated film delivers all the Lego-themed comedy you could ever ask for, and then some. Fast paced, furiously scripted and featuring plenty of non-stop laughs, if you don’t find any of this film amusing or entertaining, then you’re probably a corpse.

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Everything in this movie is awesome.

There’s a fair chance that if you were ever a child, or had a child, you’ve enjoyed the escape from life that is playing with those tiny, multi-hued plastic bricks designed to clip together, otherwise known as Lego. Naturally, I count myself among the millions who grew up tinkering in the toybox with these incredibly durable, entirely interconnected, utterly infinitum-testing little bricks of fun, creating entire worlds from a collection of random pieces attained from a multitude of Christmas and birthday presents down the years. While Lego’s popularity has only increased with age, so to has the brand’s expansion into alternative media, from computer games of increasing variety, board games, clothing, books and magazines, and then to cinema, with The Lego Movie being the first big-screen outing for this iconic toy brand (hard to believe it’s taken this long!). Helmed by directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the brains behind the original Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, as well as the live-action hit remake of 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie comes amid a glut of animated fare saturating cineplexes across the globe; considering the franchise’s loyalty to fans, and its interchangeable connectivity to people’s emotions, would the Lego brand’s first foray into cinema be a “block”-buster success, or a brick-shattering failure?

Just another day in the city.
Just another day in the city.

In the Lego city of Bricksburg, construction worker Emmett Brikowski (voice of Chris Pratt) is a nothing-special builder who only knows how to follow instructions. One day, he meets the mysterious Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), and inadvertently stumbles upon the search for the powerful Piece of Resistance, a counteracting weapon to local despot Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and his Kragle. Lord Business, who has determined that each of the Lego worlds must measure up to his vision of perfection, although the mysterious Master Builders seek to thwart this plan of domination. The venerable Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), together with Lucy, Emmett, Batman (Will Arnett), a hodge-podge pirate creation (Nick Offermann), Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Benny, a mid-80’s spaceman (Charlie Day), attempt to infiltrate Lord Business’s enormous headquarters and stop his evil plan, all the while staying one step ahead of Business’s henchman, Bad Cop (Liam Neeson).

The Lego Village People Collection wasn't the success they had hoped.
The Lego Village People Collection wasn’t the success they had hoped.

If I was only to give a single sentence review of this film, it would be written thusly: holy crap this film is awesome! Whether you’re a Lego aficionado, a total newbie, or just a casual fan, there’s something in The Lego Movie for everyone to enjoy. The film is a total sugar-rush of eyeball blasting fun, strained through the multicolored building blocks of one of the world’s most recognizable toy brands. I must admit, The Lego Movie isn’t a film you’ll be able to watch just the once, since the sheer volume of jokes, cameos, background jokes and sheer awesomeness most assuredly warrants repeated screenings just to appreciate the work and craftsmanship the film enjoys. I’m hard pressed to adequately describe the rat-a-tat pacing of the film’s opening act, the deluge of one-liners and comedic extravagance this one-joke film has going on – cynical viewers might think a film based entirely around a toy line might be just a marketing ploy to sell more toys, and obviously those people probably hated Transformers as well, but it would be an almighty argument to make headway into this film’s unadulterated joy and sense of fun.

If I was to mention "nipples on the batsuit", what would you say?
If I was to mention “nipples on the batsuit”, what would you say?

Written by both Lord and Miller, and filled with franchise nods and cracking laughs, The Lego Movie only occasionally pauses for breath inside its opening hour, so if you’re hoping for a moment to stop and trot off for a wee, you’ll be waiting a fair while for the film to calm down. The plot is the kind of story a kid might make up on the fly, the battle between good and evil writ large across multiple franchise platforms in that free-form style young children employ in their “play”. Lord and Miller have nailed the feeling of just “making shit up” and making it feel natural, and avoiding the maligned problem of awkwardly including non-essential characters or ideas in the plot just to sell more toys. I guess when the film looks like it was shot inside a Lego toybox, one has the freedom to do literally anything they can think of, and The Lego Movie thankfully avoids feeling like a 90 minute toy commercial. Thanks to the latitude the premise allows, Lord and Miller can actually include practically every Lego character ever created (and even some who haven’t, I’d wager!) and shovel them into a film so amazingly well made it’s just astonishing to behold. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film so bereft of restraint that works as well as it does! It’s a testament to Lord and Miller’s grasp of comedy, and what makes Lego so timeless, that they get to play in the “world” with an abandon that’s so visually and narratively liberating.

The start of a really bad joke.
The start of a really bad joke.

A lot of the film’s success lies in its animation. Australian studio Animal Logic, who provided the visuals for Happy Feet, The Owls Of Gahoole, and Moulin Rouge (among many, many others), have outdone themselves with this film, which is truly a feast for the eyes. The film is presented in that blocky Lego style, although it’s not stop-motion but rather a CG representation of it. Viewers might take some moments to acclimate to the look of the film, but if you embrace it and sit back in wonder, you’ll find yourself just gawping in amazement at just how seamless, superb and detailed CG blocks of Lego actually look.

Hey babe, you really want to see what I keep in my utility belt?
Hey babe, you really want to see what I keep in my utility belt?

The other key aspect to The Lego Movie’s future longevity is its voice cast, specifically Will Ferrell’s Lord Business, Liam Neeson’s Bad Cop, and Will Arnett’s Batman. Of the entire cast of top-tier talent, these three in particular stand out, not only for their ability to grasp the silliness and aesthetic of the film they’re making, but to give their yellow-hued minifigure characters actual emotion behind the iconic look. Sure, Chris Pratt’s lead character of Emmett is the core of the story, and Pratt delivers a slightly pitchy, indecisive performance of a character unable to come up with anything creative himself, and Elizabeth Banks’s Lucy is the staunch girlfriend of Arnett’s hilarious caped crusader and leading female character doing her best Angeline Jolie impression, but it’s Ferrell who is the surprise packet of the movie. He makes Lord Business somewhat sympathetic, in many ways, and Ferrell’s usual schtick is on show again – usually, that would annoy me, but here, Lord and Miller make it work for the film rather than grate against it, and even a third-act live-action segment featuring the actor are actually reasonably controlled; something I’ve not ever considered for a Will Ferrell film.

Man, I really dropped some hard-core drugs last night, didn't I?
Man, I really dropped some hard-core drugs last night, didn’t I?

Liam Neeson’s Bad Cop character allows the Irishman to stretch his comedic chops, something he wasn’t able to do in the execrable The Nut Job, and his transition between Bad Cop and Good Cop (talk about a split personality!) is utterly hilarious – Neeson’s Good Gop voice sounds like an Irish pixie on acid, and it works so utterly well. And much has been made of Will Arnett’s vocals on Batman here, turning a dark and omniscient heroic character into a more layered, funny and dryly amusing prototype from the DC Comic’s stable. Listen out for Jonah Hill as an annoying Green Lantern, and Channing Tatum as Superman (a nod to their work in 21 Jump Street no doubt!), and Morgan Freeman’s Gandalf-esque Vitruvius character gives the normally stoic and measured actor a chance to sink his teeth into comedy in a way I’ve never heard before.

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!
Pick me! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!

Frankly, there’s not many negatives to The Lego Movie. If I was to nitpick, I’d have to say that the film does stumble slightly (let me reiterate – slightly) in the final act, which extends itself through a mantra of loose fitting self-worth morals befitting a Walt Disney film, while the rush of action in the opening two thirds of the film might give some viewers fatigue at the barrage of jokes and plot points the movie covers, but even in spite of all this, The Lego Movie is a blazing, blistering success. I dare you not to have a great time watching one of the great animated films of the last ten years. That’s a bold statement, but I think people will be having more fun with this film in twenty years than many of the other major successes of the last few years. The Lego Movie is jam packed with so much action, so much fun and so much love for the content that it’s impossible not to watch this without a gigantic smile on your face. It’s not perfect, but then it doesn’t have to be: it only has to be awesome. The Lego Movie delivers that awesome in abundance.

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