Lego – much like EVERYTHING – is awesome. It is a toy that appeals to all genders and ages. Sophomore year of college I went in on one of the big expensive Lego sets with two of my friends. We spent the rest of the day putting that sucker together. It was a blast. I’m sure most anyone can relate. When an intellectual property comes with so much nostalgia it is normal to be worried that a film adaptation will be patronizing and money-grabbing. Luckily The Lego Movie manages to avoid all that, and to do it in style.
The film follows Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), a completely average Lego minifigure, who gets sucked into a rebellion against Lord Business (Will Ferrell) when he encounters the fabled Piece of Resistance. He is backed by a group of “master builders,” minifigures who can look at the environment around them and build fantastic creations with the pieces they see. There are a ton of great actors providing the voices for these supporting characters that I’m just going to list the names: Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Banks, Charlie Day, WIll Arnett, and more.
This movie is great. Easily the best movie of the year so far – although when your competition is stuff like I, Frankenstein and Labor Day that bar is pretty low. It is just very refreshing to see a movie that is fun from start to finish; it is easy to get caught up in the depressing importance of all the movies that came out at the end of last year. Just try not to enjoy yourself while watching The Lego Movie (hint: you won’t be able to do it). Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street) knocked this movie out of the park – from both a writing and directing standpoint. Not only is the script a ton of fun (Batman is a character in this movie, you nerds), but so are all of the tiny visual elements of the movie. Because the characters are Lego minifigures they are very limited in the kinds of actions they can undertake – the movie gets a ton of laughs out of the twisted physics, but it never gets old.
The film is most triumphant, however, in doing something that no one ever expected (or needed): The Lego Movie creates an overarching mythology for the entire Lego franchise. We learn how all of these disparate properties can co-exist within the same general realm. And it makes sense. To an extent. There is a reveal in the third act that kind of negates the mythology that I was so on board with. It damages the continuity that the film has established up to that point, but it does serve one of the movie’s messages.
That’s right: messages plural. Lord and Mills had some shit they wanted to say here. One of the things the movie mythologizes is the Lego franchise’s transition from random structure-building to direction-driven kits. The movie advocates throwing away the instructions (sometimes) and just building for yourself. Which is a good message for a movie, but will be weirdly juxtaposed with the pre-fabricated kits that I am sure will be released to tie in to the feature.
But the thing that the movie really drives home is the idea that everyone is special. This is a concept that the court of public opinion has fluctuated wildly on over the last 20 years (should everybody get a trophy?!?). There is a distinction between everyone being special and everyone being a winner. Some people have to lose, and that’s okay, but everybody has their weird thing that makes them unique. “Weird” starts as a dirty word in The Lego Movie, but it becomes a badge of honor for its characters as the story progresses. And the weird moments are definitely some of the best parts.
When I see a “children’s movie” I try to imagine if the message is one I want to pass on to any children that I have out there and don’t know about. They could do much worse than The Lego Movie; weird isn’t a bad thing – and that is a good thing. We are in living in an era where Michael Sam, a National Football League prospect, has come out as gay. I cannot say whether Michael saw The Lego Movie and was inspired to open up, but I am sure that the movie’s message about being yourself would not have hurt.