Once in a while, a movie comes along that is completely devoid of cynicism, or at least does a superb job at conveying that it has none. Being a hard pressed cynic, I find that the film marketplace is notably absent of these kinds of flicks, surprisingly enough in films that are mainly intended for children or at the very least families. The last truly heart-melting film that just had me smiling from beginning to end was the recent Muppet movie. Everything since then has been largely hit and miss (mostly miss) as major studios often treat children like idiots (which admittedly to some degree they are) and pump out below par animation vehicles in some vain attempt at a cash grab. (See recent examples such as ‘The Nut Job’ and ‘Free Birds’) Needless to say, one goes into something called ‘The Lego Movie’ with a fair degree of hesitation and cynicism. This easily could have been one giant soulless commercial much like ‘Space Jam’ or any of the ‘Transformers’ films. What we got however is something much more akin to Toy Story, and I loved every fucking nostalgic, silly, heartwarming, mind-melting, fangasim inducing frame of it. (Spoilers: this is going to be another boring “Tyler loved it, and will now proceed to brown nose it” review, people.)
This original computer animated story follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.
As the title of the article suggests, everything on display really was awesome in ‘The Lego Movie.’ It kind of reminds me of the Kung Fu Panda series in that nothing called ‘The Lego Movie’ should be this spectacular. It kind of defies all reason. From the first few seconds, I had the biggest smile on face. The very animation of this movie made me smile even when nothing particularly funny was happening. I’ve been a long time fan of writers and directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller dating back to their Clone High days…
…and once again, they hit it out of the park. They are now 3 for 3 in terms of movies that should have sucked, but actually rocked. (Their previous two films being ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and ’21 Jump Street’ respectively.) They bring a unique flair and energy to just about everything they touch, and it’s no different here. At this point, I am just going to trust everything that has their name attached. (I’m headed your way, ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine.’)
So what things can I highlight about a movie in which I liked everything. Well let’s start with the story. Props to the Lego Company for allowing a movie that features such an unabashed criticism on modern life and individuality is currently under threat by uniformity through cultural and mental enslavement. The song ‘Everything is Awesome,’ while being perhaps the most catchy songs ever, is a frank statement on the deja vu inducing turnwheel that pop music has become.
It’s easy to identify with Emmett, voiced perfectly by Chris Pratt, and his plight to be “the special.” He’s the atypical nobody thrown into a strange and fantastic journey, and he never once becomes annoying. I thought it was a nice touch to have him act just like we would should we switch places particularly when meeting Batman for the first time, and then almost immediately learning that Batman was also dating the girl you liked. Ouch. The third act twist, which I will not give away, is also pretty ballsy. This is a movie that doesn’t just want to sell us toys; it asks us why we played with them in the first place. It not only captures what playing with Legos was like as a child, but also just what it was like to use your imagination, where there are no limits or copyrights. Speaking of which, everyone should know by now that there are quite a few cameos in the film by some much beloved characters such as Batman (Will Arnett), Wonder Woman (Colbie Smulders), Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), and those are just the DC characters. There are A LOT more, and one in particular absolutely floored me. I won’t reveal it here, but if you know me, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about when you see the flick. I mean Batman actually speaks to…urgh…I want to talk about it so bad!
The animation is also top-fucking-notch with its seem less mixture of stop-motion and CGI. Crowd scenes are literally jaw dropping, and even the environments have some of the most impressive attention to detail I’ve ever seen in a movie. I don’t even want to imagine how difficult it must have been to choreograph and animate the action scenes on display here. The animation plays well with the humor which is also stellar. I do not recall one joke ever falling flat throughout the film’s runtime.
The final thing I will heap my inconsequential praise upon is the cast which features seasoned vets and some newcomers that will hopefully also become big names. As previously mentioned, Chris Pratt plays our hero to perfection. Pratt is a guy I have been rooting for ever since he came into his own as the scene stealing Andy on ‘Parks and Recreation.’ He’s also staring in the upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Jurassic World,’ both of which I am biting my nails in anticipation over. I don’t need to be a fortune teller to tell you this guy is going places. Elizabeth Banks plays the badass WyldStyle (“Are you a DJ?”) and brings her patented likability and wit to the role. Morgan Freeman is actually pretty hilarious in a role that pokes fun at his almost god-like voice. (Particularly in a scene in which he has to go ‘Oooooohhhooooo” a couple of times…you’ll see what I mean.) Will Ferrell , who thought would have a minor role in the film, actually comes pretty damn close to stealing the entire things as President Business. He’s villain that is hilarious, truly evil, and actually redeemable by the film’s end. By and large Ferrell has the most heavy lifting in the entire cast as evidenced in the third act. Rounding out the cast is the ever lovable Alison Brie as UniKitty, Nick Offerman as Captain Metalbeard, and Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop. I’ve never really seen (well…heard) Neeson be this funny in a movie before and he didn’t even have to have full blown AIDs to do it. Take that, Ricky Gervais.
Out of everyone though, I would have to say my two favorites would consist of Charlie Day’s Benny, the 1980’s something space guy, and of course Will Arnett’s Batman, who just may be my favorite iteration of the character I’ve seen in a theatrical film before. Suck it, Christian Bale. Every character and their respective actor has a chance to steal more than one scene, and at no point do any of them become annoying. This is one of the most lovable cast of characters in the past decade, and you can take that to the bank…if you want…I’m not sure why’d you’d want to.
Are you bored of my praise yet? Well good because we’ve reached the end of the review. Look, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not see this movie as soon as you can. It will melt the most cynical of hearts. It melted mine, and I’m basically borderline Grinch at this point. If you are looking for a guaranteed smile, give this movie your time.