Title: The Lego Movie
Directed By: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Voice Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Jonah Hill, Nick Offerman
It’s a good thing “The Lego Movie” hadn’t come out in the late 80s or early 90s, otherwise my parents would be broke.
The story focuses on a minifigure named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt). He’s just your average guy, living life according to the instructions. He does his exercises, drinks his overpriced coffee, indulges in the latest craze, a song called “Everything is Awesome,” and heads off to work. However, little does he know that Lord Business (Will Ferrell) is about to demolish his awesome existence using a super weapon called The Kragel. The Master Builders have been hard at work trying to track down the only item that can shut down The Kragel, The Piece of Resistance, but it’s Emmet who happens to stumble upon it and, according to Vitruvius’ (Morgan Freeman) prophecy, that makes Emmet “The Special,” the only one capable of putting a stop to Lord Business’ plan to end the world.
As someone who grew up with and still has an affinity for Legos, “The Lego Movie” is quite literally a dream come true. Sure it was fun sorting through instructions, putting cars, pirate ships and spaceships together piece by piece and then embarking on an epic adventure using your imagination, but what if there were no big, fat human hands to tarnish that visual? Almost every single movement and action sequence in “The Lego Movie” is just what anyone might create manipulating the toys with their hands, but as though the minifigures are doing it all on their own and it’s downright magical.
This is what a toy-to-film adaptation should be. It’s as though the writing team and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller really took the time to sit down and figure out what made Legos so special and then treated that information with the utmost respect before bringing it to screen. This isn’t “Battleship” where the filmmakers took the game title and just ran with that; this is both a film that enhances what we adore about the toy and it’s also a standout-animated film in and of itself.
The core concept of this movie is pure genius. First off, Emmet is highly relatable. He’s your average guy who doesn’t think he’s able to step up and do something special, but eventually proves he’s capable of far more than he ever imagined. But then, within his mission to save the day is a particularly poignant conflict between those who follow instructions versus those that create via imagination. As someone who had a tendency to spend hours building elaborate sets and then put them out of reach to ensure they remained untouched, it was natural to connect with Emmet as someone who valued order and the way things are designed to be, but then let loose to discover what the world has to offer when you leave the instruction pamphlets behind.
“The Lego Movie” is also loaded with supporting players that’ll undoubtedly become fan favorites, my personal favorite being Alison Brie’s Unikitty, a bizarre cat/unicorn hybrid who’s determined to always stay positive – until she loses her cool. Elizabeth Banks’ Wyldstyle makes for a solid main player and Will Arnett’s voice casting as Batman is spot-on, but even more memorable is Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius. Not only does he have some of the best dialogue in the film, but for anyone with a soft spot for a particular Lego minifigure, his transformation will be especially satisfying. And then there’s also Liam Neeson’s Good Cop/Bad Cop, an absolutely brilliant character with a spinning head that allows him to play both Good Cop and Bad Cop all on his own. It’s priceless hearing Neeson call out to his mommy and daddy in the higher pitched, kinder Good Cop voice, but it’s also a thrill hearing him tap back into that rough and tough persona we’ve come to know and love while watching his minifigure shout, “Darn, darn, darnny, darn,” and then throw a temper tantrum, kicking things and other minifigures when Emmet escapes.
The only element of “The Lego Movie” that could divide audiences is the ending. No spoilers here so we’ll steer clear of the details but, admittedly, it is a bit heavy-handed. However, considering the large majority of the movie is the exact opposite of that, an endlessly enjoyable romp, the two wind up balancing each other out quite well. In fact, had Lord and Miller not dipped into melodramatic territory in the third act, there’s a chance the movie’s messages wouldn’t have come through as clear and made such a lasting impression.
Whether the ending hits home for you or not, there’s still no way you’ll walk out of “The Lego Movie” without a big smile on your face, humming “Everything is Awesome,” and wanting to go stock up on some new Lego sets. The characters are wildly unique and likable, the narrative is incredibly nostalgic and thoughtful, and the animation is downright mesmerizing. Lord and Miller take their source material very seriously. Every single visual in this movie is constructed with pieces that actually exist, they move just the way they would in the real world and the result makes you want to play with them all over again. This truly is a very special movie.