Now that’s the way to have a real big fun with Lego toys. “The Lego Movie”, the first nice surprise of this year, is so much fun and exciting that it completely blew my skepticism within 5 minutes and I found myself chuckling a lot amidst its pure, unadulterated entertainment. This animation film remarkably stays true to its inspiration in many commendable aspects, and I was particularly amazed by how the people behind it did a fantastic job of evoking the exact looks and feelings of those stop-motion animation commercials from the Lego company I saw during my childhood years in the 1990s. Sure, they certainly did use lots of CGIs as expected from a big-budget animation feature film, but, boy, I could be fooled to believe for a while that they only depended on those tiny Lego figures and blocks while having lots of fun with them during the production.
One of the main reasons why I had doubts on its success was I did not think they had a story engaging enough to support a feature-length film. I must admit to you that I was totally wrong in my rather cynical judgment. While the story is not so fresh from the beginning, the directors/screenplay writers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, who wrote the story with Dan and Kevin Hageman, pack their story with energy and humor to the level 11, and they also give us a load of wonderful goodies to behold and admire – and I was instantly taken back to my sweet childhood memories with Lego blocks.
I was a straight-arrow kid strictly following Lego manual instructions during that time, and I guess I would have been as happy as Emmet Brickowoski(voiced by Chris Pratt) if I had happened to live in his city as one of his fellow Lego figures. As one of those plain construction worker figures included in many Lego toy sets, Emmet has been cheerfully following his daily routine without any serious thought about himself or his world, and he and the other Lego figures in the city happily go through their another same day along with their terribly overpriced coffee and that horribly catchy song “Everything is Awesome!” on the soundtrack.
But, my god, their world indeed looks awesome in every aspect. The streets, vehicles, and buildings on the screen really look like something you can build from Lego blocks if you have enough time for that, and the Lego figures in the movie are exactly what you find in Lego toy sets. While their facial expressions are handled with CGIs, their physical appearances and body movements are mostly broad and simple in limited range, but you cannot help but be joyous as watching how all these tiny pieces are vibrantly moved along with many other objects on the big screen in a zany stop-motion animation style.
Meanwhile, there is an evil plan ready to be executed upon their city and other Lego lands, and we are told during the opening sequence that Lord Business(voiced by Will Ferrell), who is also known as President Business in public, has been planning to solidify his control over the Lego world through a superweapon called ‘Kragle’. Vitruvius(voiced by Morgan Freema), the wizard character who failed to prevent Lord Business from snatching Kragle, prophesied that there will be a savior to rise against Lord Business and stop his superweapon through “the Piece of Resistance”(If you have ever heard of the expression “pièce de résistance”, you will laugh more than others, by the way).
That special piece in question happens to stick to Emmet’s back during a bumpy incident which happens right after he comes across Wyldstyle(voiced by Elizabeth Banks) at his construction site during one night. He soon finds himself targeted by Lord Business’ main henchman Good Cop/Bad Cop(voiced by Liam Neeson in a rare comic mode) and other evil minions, so he has no choice but to go along with Wyldstyle and Vitruvius, and he also tries to handle his prophesied destiny although, as everyone including him admits, he has absolute zero talent of building something for himself compared to other ‘Master Builders’ including Wyldstyle. He is only confirmed of how mediocre he is as a conformist who never has had a single thought in his blockhead, and his only ‘inventive’ idea is a lousy type of furniture you must see for yourself due to its unspeakable ludicrousness.
Of course, as you have already guessed, the story is virtually a derivative mix of many SF films such as “Star Wars”(1977) and “Matrix”(1999), but the movie throws plenty of gags, jokes, and actions into its surreal plot while bouncing around various Lego lands. Most of its jokes are very funny thanks to their sharp satiric edge, and its busy action scenes are enthralling as fueled by the zealous creativity put behind the screen. Even when it is on its full throttle mode, the movie gives us enough time to appreciate Master Builders’ ability to create or assemble many things quickly in short time for their strategic advantage, and you will be reminded again of how tepidly jumbled and messy recent Transformers films were without any sense of fun. In fact, Metal Beard(voiced by Nick Offerman), one of more distinctive Master Builder figures, does look like a grotesque Lego version of transformer robot, and his amusing transformation skill will surely put lots of transformer robots to shame.
And the movie still keeps itself under the logics of its fantasy world amid lots of crashes and bangs, and we get many amusing sights of fire, water, smoke, and gun blasts depicted through Lego pieces. That oddity somehow makes sense while working as a part of its distinctive style, and the revealed identity of Kragle is another nice touch working hilariously, and effectively, with the main subject of the story which is naturally presented with some surprise for you.
The actors hired for the voice works in the film plays well along with their respective characters. Chris Pratt, who has been establishing his own goofy persona through TV sitcom “Parks and Recreation” while showing a little more serious side through the films such as “Moneyball”(2011) and “Zero Dark Thirty”(2012), is immediately likable as the unlikely hero of the story, and Elizabeth Banks is plucky with sparks as the girl with many previous names, and Will Ferrell gleefully enjoys his villain role with gusto while never feeling too dark. While Will Arnett, Jonah Hill, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Will Forte, Dave Franco, and Channing Tatum are good comic additions as expected, it is an irresistible pleasure to see Morgan Freeman finally spoofing his wise old man persona with a vengeance, and Liam Neeson’s literally schizophrenic voice performance reminds us that this talented actor really should do something different other than his recent undistinguishable action films.
“The Lego Movie” does feel like a blatant product promotion film at times as it goes and looks round many Lego toy sets, and it also features lots of Lego figures including Abraham Lincoln, Gandalf the Grey, Professor Dumbledore, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, two Michelangelos(hint: one is a turtle while the other is not), and Shaquille O’Neal himself. As one of my acquaintances correctly predicted, the movie will definitely make the young audiences craving for Lego toy sets when it is over, and, what do you know, the Lego company is already selling the toy sets associated with the film.
Nevertheless, that commercial aspect does not change the fact that “The Lego Movie” is an exhilarating animation film to be praised for its unabashed sense of fun and excitement and other many good reasons. Its running time passed quickly for me as I savored its goodies with other entertained audiences, and I am willing to watch it again someday for both appreciating its immense creativeness and having a good fun again. But, folks, I won’t deny that I will probably think twice before watching it again if I become a father with kids.