Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: The Lego Movie

I, like most people with access to commercial toy products, grew up on Lego. It's a well-known brand that I have had immense fun with both as a child and as an adult.I'm not kidding either, I still own Lego sets that I proudly display on my shelf. It's a veritable mish-mash of properties and characters, which is how I like it. But I never really got into the animated Lego offerings. Hell, I've never really played their games, which a lot of people swear are great. So I wasn't sure how to approach this movie when it hit theaters. I wasn't ever certain I wanted to see it, in all honesty, as the other animated stuff didn't really impress me. But I gave it a shot, so sit with me here as I review my thoughts on it.

Feel free to build yourself something nice. Perhaps a snack? There's an idea: edible Legos.

Our story centers on a rather simple generic construction worker in the vast Legoworld. His name is Emmet and he enjoys his life, but seems pretty lonely. He literally has a conversation with a houseplant. And this probably isn't helped by the fact that everyone seems to kinda ignore him altogether. But his life gets a bit of excitement when he sees a shadowy figure lurking around the construction site who turns out to be a very attractive bad-ass lady by the name of Wyldstyle. No, really, that's her name. I mean, she's changed it a few times according to the wise-man character, Vitruvius, but we're sticking with this name for now. Emmet follows her, falls into a rather painful hole, and ends up with a mysterious object stuck to his back that gives him a vision of "the man upstairs". This object in question is called the "piece of resistance" and was prophesied by Vitruvius to be found by one who would be known as "the special".

Are you tired of all the quotation marks yet?
Anyways, Lego Liam Neeson interrogates Emmet about the strange object lodged onto his back and Wyldstyle finally shows up to guide him on his destiny by busting him out and building a pretty awesome motorcycle out of random Lego pieces. But, much to her dismay, she realizes that he's actually a pretty average guy who has no creativity in his yellow little head, This means he has no idea how to be a "master builder" like her. Emmet remains excited though as the adventure continues and they meet Vitruvius. The three escape before Emmet can learn anything and they head to Cloud Cuckoo Land to meet the other builders. When they all realize Emmet has no clue what to do, they all freak out and the villains show up to ruin everything, as villains do.
 
We have a very particular set of skills and they mostly involve destroying happiness.
The baddies capture most of the builders, but a handful escape in a thing they sorta build on the fly. Not surprisingly, this thing kinda falls apart as it had no real guideline for how it was built. The only thing that survives is Emmet's double-decker couch that everyone often mocks as a really bad idea. They all survive by hiding inside of it and Metalbeard, who quite possibly the coolest thing ever, shows up to take them aboard his boat. On the boat are our heroes, which now include:
  • Emmet
  • Wyldstyle
  • Vitruvius
  • Princess Unikitty
  • Batman
  • Benny (a classic 1980s space Lego guy obsessed with building spaceships)
  • Metalbeard
They all come together to formulate a plan which turns out to be doing what Emmet is good at, which is following directions. Creativity is great and all, but without a guideline it turns out things tend to fall apart. It's a good lesson too.

Seriously though...Metalbeard is fucking awesome.
Anyway, they bring the fight to President Business, our villain who plans to glue everyone in place, and things go alright until they fall apart completely. We get some really interesting and cool character development and action scenes that lead up to our  conclusion, which closes on a great message for both kids and adults. That message being to remember not to forget the simple joy of playing with your toys. After seeing the film, I have to say that I really loved it. It was amazing watching how they used the Lego pieces in creative ways. When Emmet took a shower and the water was actual Lego pieces rolling off his body, I was in awe. They really took their concept and ran with it in a way none of the other Lego animated projects did, and in doing so really highlighted why I didn't like those. When watching those other projects it just felt like something animated to look like a Lego set. This felt like Legos were actually being played with. It felt organic and real, like when you're a kid and playing with them on your bedroom floor.

And it didn't even involve stepping on a Lego brick and letting loose a barrage of obscenities.
The cast was stellar as well, with Chris Pratt and Will Arnett often dominating scenes with their portrayals of Emmet and Batman. Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius seemed to poke fun at many of his own roles and Charlie Day was impossible not to love as Benny, who just wanted so badly to build a spaceship. Alison Brie's Unikitty was a brilliant jab at the popular My Little Pony toys and I liked her constant struggle to remain happy. Elizabeth Banks did a great job as our female lead, Wyldstyle, pulling off being a believable bad-ass while still obviously being very vulnerable. Liam Neeson as the Bad Cop was so much fun, especially since he was so over the top. And you know how much I loved Nick Offerman as Metalbeard. I would say it's tied with his portrayal of Ron Swanson as my favourite role he has played. But, the actor that honestly impressed me the most was Will Ferrell, who pulled double duty as both the main villain and as "the man upstairs". He gave a lot of heart in his scenes as the latter and really highlighted what it's like to forget why you love something to the point that it starts affecting others.

That sign right there is like a knife stabbing into your inner child.
Basically, this movie is great and you should go see it. Even better, go buy it and then buy some Legos. Play, have fun, use you imagination or follow the directions. Invite some friends to join you. Try making it a family activity if you have a family to share it with. Because life is too short to just let your inner child stagnate. Until next time, I'll be here building an awesome castle.

Have a nice day!

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