Shalom Life | April 12, 2014

REVIEW: ‘The Lego Movie’ Shines Beyond Its Plastic Surface

Phil Lord and Chris Miller construct a poignant, heartfelt, and hilarious animated film with Lego.

By: Jake Horowitz

Published: February 7th, 2014 in Culture » Film » Reviews

When a popular toy brand appears in the title of a movie, it’s generally not a good sign. In fact, it’s a rule that the movie will be either one , if not both, of the following two things: One, audiences will recognize the brand and will buy tickets based solely on that familiarity, therefore there’s no necessity for plot or originality whatsoever. Two, the movie was made specifically to sell you something; character development, writing, and acting be damned!

But there’s an exception that proves that rules are meant to be broken. It’s called The Lego Movie. It’s original, funny, breathtaking, surprising, and awesome all rolled into one. And it’s out now.

The Lego Movie starts out innocently enough, with minifigure Emmet (Chris Pratt) happily living a mundane existence. Emmet finds joy in the catchy pop songs and mass-appeal television shows that everyone should love, and he dutifully follows the instructions of everyday life. But when he stumbles upon an item at work that turns him into the prophesized “Special,” he must team up with a free-thinking minifigure (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and an all-knowing wizard (Morgan Freeman), to defeat President Business (Will Ferrell) before he can destroy the world.

If that sounds like the plot of almost every other movie based on a toy, good, because everything in between is going to surprise and delight you until all your expectations are thrown out the window. With The Lego Movie, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller manage to play with the audience’s expectations of what an animated Lego movie should be, rearrange the pieces like the colorful bricks the film is based on, and come up with something thoroughly unique and unbelievably endearing.

The first thing you’ll notice in The Lego Movie is the animation. Rather than follow the traditions of computer generated animation that came before it, Lord and Miller brilliantly evoke a stop-motion aesthetic that is unlike any movie in history. Fittingly, every frame looks like it has been rendered in painstaking detail with actual Lego bricks, and it looks incredible. The colors pop, the environments soar, and the moving pieces look fluid and yet completely real. It gives the whole movie a quality of childlike wonder, which perfectly sets the bar for what’s beneath the animation; the script.

Since the script was also written by Lord and Miller, the movie meshes so well together as a whole that it makes you realize what other animated movies lack. Considering all the technical achievement on display, it’s amazing that things like character, plot, and theme come through, but they really do. More than that, they are the true star of the film, along with the excellent performances by all the voice actors that really bring the story to life.

Complete with a full range of well-earned emotions and painfully funny jokes jam packed throughout, The Lego Movie simply succeeds at everything it sets out to do. And just when you think you’ve figured out what it’s set out to do, the format changes and sweeps you up right along with it. Nothing stays the same for long in The Lego Movie, and it’s appropriately wonderful that in a movie seemingly made with swappable construction pieces, each piece of the story is swapped in and out, torn down, built up, and reconstructed again right before our eyes.

The Lego Movie treats us to the idea that following expectations and going along with the crowd is the worst thing someone can do. When everyone is just a face in the crowd, mindlessly following instructions and consuming what we’re told to consume, creativity is thrown out the window and what’s left is too perfect, too sterile, and too boring. So we’re encouraged to watch as Emmet learns to think for himself, and in turn, we might learn to think for ourselves too. It’s a novel theme, especially for what is unfairly referred to as a “kid’s movie,” but it’s also representative of the larger idea of The Lego Movie.

In a world with cookie cutter blockbusters, superhero movies, and films based solely on brand power, The Lego Movie sets itself apart by breaking away from the pack, throwing away the instructions, and thinking for itself. And the result is, perhaps ironically, everything a movie should be.

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