Every kid's favorite building blocks get their own feature-length film featuring Batman and Superman in The LEGO Movie! But is everything "awesome" about this adventure or does it fail to meet expectations? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review!
Directed By: Phil Lord and Chris Miller Written By: Phil Lord and Chris Miller Runtime: 101 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.
Emmet - Chris Pratt WyldStyle - Elizabeth Banks Vitruvius - Morgan Freeman President Business - Will Ferrell Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop - Liam Neeson Batman - Will Arnett Unikitty - Alison Brie Benny - Charlie Day Metal Beard - Nick Offerman Superman - Channing Tatum Wonder Woman - Cobie Smulders Green Lantern - Jonah Hill Gandalf - Todd Hansen
At long last, after many years of successful videogames, animated TV shows, and specials, those beloved building blocks known as Legos are finally spotlighted in their own theatrical film. The LEGO Movie brings to life a world only limited to as far as our imaginations can go go in creating our own world and cities with Legos. The project comes from co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who previously found success in the infinitely endearing and charming animated sleeper hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
The LEGO Movie is set in its own contained type of Lego universe. An evil, tyrannical corporate CEO and the universe’s president, President Business (Ferrell), steals an ancient weapon that he plans on using to destroy the world. An old wizard and master builder by the name of Vitruvius (Freeman) prophesizes that someone called the Special, the greatest master builder of all time, will find a mystical artifact that will destroy the weapon and save the world.
Years later, we meet the would-be special in the form of Emmet (Pratt), an average Lego construction worker with a short-attention span and a burning desire to have friends and be part of a group. Emmet notices a mysterious girl, Wyldstyle (Banks), rifling through his construction site, but he unwittingly falls in and discovers the artifact that will destroy the ancient weapon called the KRAGL (it looks like some type of artifact). Emmet touches it and is bombarded by strange visions. He awakens bonded to the artifact under the custody of Good Bad Cop/Good Cop (Neeson), President Business’ minion. Wyldstyle busts him out, believing him to be the Special and the two stage a daring escape. Wyldstyle is also a “master builder,” which basically means she has the power to see all sorts of Lego bricks and build anything she can imagine. Once Wyldstyle realizes that Emmet is not a master builder, she’s disappointed because she was the one that wanted to be the Special instead of someone like Emmet. The two travel to a Western-themed city and find Vitruvius who takes them to a meeting of the last master builders, including Lego versions of characters from all sorts of major franchises. Oh, and Wyldstyle is dating Batman (Arnett). Batman here is remarkably similar to his animated parody version from the animated How It Should Have Ended shorts. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen here. Emmet will discover his hidden talents and will do his best to save the world and of course try to win the heart of Wyldstyle. As Jim Ross would say, “It ain’t ballet!”
Despite a plot that shockingly beat-for-beat is almost the same as The Matrix, another Warner Bros. picture, Lord and Miller have made something special and a lot of fun. The pure imagination on display through this story is wondrous and a lot of fun. The dialogue and writing is very clever and entertaining. The world and the story itself feels authentically borne out of a child’s own mind, which plays into things later. The movie’s theme song, “Everything is Awesome,” is infinitely addictive and catchy.
The vocal performances by all the main actors are a lot of fun, especially Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop. Good Cop/Bad Cop can switch his personalities by twisting his head to a mean face or a happy-looking face. He has a running gag with throwing chairs that pays off beautifully throughout the film. Arnett’s version of Batman is also a delight. Basically, I enjoy parody versions of Batman being an overt, condescending, superior douchebag, which he pretty much is here, though he’s still one of the good guys.
Unfortunately, some characters do get the short end of the stick. As a fan of the Green Lantern character, I was pretty disappointed to see how he was treated more than anyone as a redheaded stepchild. Voiced by Jonah Hill with a design similar to the 2011movie starring Ryan Reynolds that flopped, Green Lantern is story’s most incompetent, socially awkward hero ever. This is a comedy, but at points the writing of Green Lantern came off as a little mean-spirited in comparison to other characters.
One mixed bag in the film is the animation style. The film was apparently animated with CGI to resemble stop-motion animation and look photo-realistic. It’s an interesting, unique look to be sure. The photo-realism and detail integrated into the environments and characters is certainly fantastic. In motion though, especially when the action picks up, it’s not the most aesthetically-pleasing look. The action and movement as a result looks incomprehensible at points. There’s too much going on, and things move too quickly to comprehend what has actually happened. One sees what the filmmakers were trying to evoke with the style, as if it’s a child giving life to his own world of Lego toys, but the overall style can be jarring to look at.
At 101 minutes, the movie isn't exceptionally long, but the third act felt way too drawn out and laborious. Also the story’s message, while nice for kids, is unfortunately beaten over the audience’s head with the subtlety of a giant sledgehammer. This is a movie aimed for kids and youth, but at a point, being hammered with “you and everyone can be special” seems to defeat the whole meaning of the word. One might recall the clever well-written dialogue exchanges in The Incredibles of “Everyone’s special, Dash.” “Which is another way of saying no one is.” This is a bit of a tangent, but telling the audience or kids they can be special in a fun and inspiring way is fine. However, the movie takes it too far by holding our hands through it and beating the horse dead.
The 411: The LEGO Movie is an imaginative adventure story that's fun and appropriate for the whole family. Phil Lord and Chris Miller have created a colorful, dynamic, and eye-popping world made out of Legos in this story that is sure to attract children and adults alike. While the story and characters are very kid-friendly, adults will also enjoy some of the more clever bits of dialogue as well as the fun, nostalgic cameos. Be forewarned, it will be hard to get the "Everything is Awesome" theme song out of your head when you are driving home from the theater.