“The LEGO Movie” **1/2 (out of 5)
Starring (the voice talents of): Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Charlie Day
Written by: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, & Chris Miller (story); Phil Lord & Chris Miller (screenplay). Based on the LEGO building block toy created by Ole Kirk Christiansen
Directed by: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
It is likely that at some point you have put together a LEGO set, or at least sat in a doctor’s office as a child and fiddled with “Duplo” blocks. The innovate building toy has been around for over 60 years in various incarnations, and over time has become ingrained in our culture- so much so that the licensed lines are commonplace. With licensing came comics, innovative and fun video games, and alas, short and full-length films. A feature-length film is really a culmination of years of success coming to a head. While not an entirely empty excuse to rake in more cash, “The LEGO Movie” falls short. At best it brings forth a few guffaws, and at worst it’s pun overkill, forced emotion, and boredom.
Please, allow me to ‘build’ my case ‘brick by brick’ (see, I can do pun humor too!). Until the first “LEGO Star Wars” video game arrived in 2004, I was blasé about the brand. The gameplay was immensely enjoyable, and the cut scenes interspersed between levels were light and humorous. Additional “LEGO” games were made, each seemingly more unique than the previous one. This led to the creation of short films, beginning in the “Star Wars” universe, and they’ve been excellent- made with the right balance of pun humor and quirky fun for adults and children. Like any good farcical comedy, the creators turned the subject on its’ head, poking fun at the material whilst revering it. The entire LEGO media experience has been rewarding for myself and my child until now. Everything was awesome (see the film to understand that statement).
Keeping that in mind, you’d think it would be a drop in the bag that I’d enjoy this immensely, but that’s not the case. I can’t help but compare “The LEGO Movie” to everything else the company has put out thus far, and in comparison, it doesn’t hold up. The story is pretty straightforward- Emmet (Pratt) is a ‘regular guy’ who literally falls into an interesting situation. Adventurous Wyldstyle/Lucy (Banks) sees him as the ‘special’- the one meant to overthrow malicious “Lord Business” (Ferrell) and keep him from permanently gluing everything together. Of course, that’s just the WORST for LEGO figures, as they love to build. There’s also a blind shaman/wizard (Freeman) guiding Emmet, and somehow he teams with Batman (Arnett) and a host of other random minifigures (including Han Solo and crew?) to stop the ‘lord’ from doing his ‘business’. See what I did there again?
None of this is silly through the eyes of a child, however. The viewing I saw was chock full of cheering little ones. The frenetic nature of the film may be a big draw to those kids, but it just wore me out, to the point of restlessness. Maybe it had something to do with the ‘stop-motion’ style of animation. Maybe it was just the hyperactivity of the plot, or the way that certain characters spoke. Maybe I’m getting old enough that these kinds of things finally hit me, and I’ve turned the corner. It would be easier if I could say the film was dull, that I didn’t laugh at all, or that it was an empty enterprise.
None of that is true, and one can tell the care the creators put into the film. Consider this- most animated films of later years have done their best to make the film enjoyable for kids and adults alike, and thus its made for everyone. That’s a benefit to everyone- the audience doesn’t have to fake it and snore through 90 minutes, and the kids actually remember it afterwards.
“The LEGO Movie” may have been aiming to please everyone, but what made LEGO media work before is missing here. Tack on a confusing, sappy real-life scene at the end between father and son and it shifted into overkill for this reviewer. It performed so well that we can expect a sequel. My suggestion? Hire those responsible for the earlier fare, and recapture the original spirit that didn’t need such clamor to work.