I never played with Legos as a kid, but after seeing the gloriously fun The Lego Movie, I’d kind of like to play with them now. This film, which is a very long commercial for the Danish toymaker, is also much, much better than it has any right to be. The company, which could have just put out a piece of crap, hired writer/directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who made a movie that has filled the vacuum of the declining Pixar.
The film is about imagination and thinking outside the box, but is also very meta about it. Our hero, Emmet (voiced by Christ Pratt), is a typical figure who lives his whole life following his instruction booklet. His world is run by Lord Business, who in Murdochian way owns everything, from the TV show (that repeats the same gag line every show) to the cameras that spy on everyone. It’s a toy version of 1984, but Emmet is not a rebel. He sings along with all the other characters that “Everything Is Awesome.”
But there are rebels, including Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who is in search of the “piece of resistance” that will stop Lord Business from using a weapon that will end the world as they know it. Emmet, who is boring and bland, turns out to be “the special,” who is prophesied to stop the destruction. Along with a few sidekicks, including Batman, Emmet learns there are many worlds besides his, and that a mysterious man upstairs controls everything.
This film works on so many levels it’s dizzying. It goes beyond the usual animated films that have two levels of humor–for the young and old. Yes, there are many pop cultural references. There are also scholarly references (one visited place is Cloud Cuckoo Land, a nod to Aristophanes). But it’s also an intriguing philosophical puzzle, especially when it is revealed who the man upstairs is (no spoiling here).
Most of all it’s laugh out loud funny. Much of the humor. oddly, comes from Will Arnett as Batman, who is played as kind of a dick. He’s Wildstyle’s boyfriend, and says things like, “If this relationship is going to work out between us I need to feel free
to party with a bunch of strangers whenever I feel like it. I will text
you.” Also very good is Liam Neeson as Badcop/Goodcop, who by switching his head around changes his attitude. I also liked Nick Offerman as Metalbeard the pirate, who offers this: “The first rule is never sit on a pirate’s face.”
Because Lego has so many licenses, there are many familiar characters here, including Superman, the Green Lantern (he’s annoying), Milhous Van Houten and Dumbledore. In a kind of celebrity cameo, we get some Star Wars figures, who come to an ignominious fate.
The film has many similarities to the Toy Story films, although these Legos are not aware that they are toys. But, judging by its quality and its box office success, we can be sure to see many more films to come.
My grade for The Lego Movie: A-.