The Lego Movie – 2014
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Starring (voices) Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman
Screenplay Lord and Miller
Where the heck did this film come from? They’ve been releasing Lego movies for years straight to DVD, and for some reason, someone got the extremely bright idea to apply talent to the brand and the result is pure gold. The message, so far as one can tell, is that you should buy all the different kinds of sets you can and mix them up. Oh, and, believe, like the poster with the hanging cat says.
We start out with regular guy Emmett (Pratt), who is a dead ringer for my friend Young Haircut. Emmett is happy with things as they are. He eats at the chain restaurants, listens to the hit songs, and watches Where are my pants? television show, like everybody else. He follows the world, and all instructions. If I were an unthinking movie watcher, I might just consider him blindly conservative. Emmett comes across Wild Style (Banks). She is a rebel, who is looking for the one who will fulfill the prophecy of Vitruvius (Freeman), who said that someone he called The Special, will come along and save the world from the monotony of sameness. Again, the well-trained drone will catch on to these ideas of Vitruvius as being liberal. If you get this much out of the film, you will have been robbed.
The sameness being imposed on the world is the mandate of the evil Lord Business (Ferrell). This message would be confusing if you thought of it only as business bad, creative good. Lego is a business, and they really want you to buy their stuff. So hang with us here. Business gives not so subtle hints that something special is going to happen on Taco Tuesday. If you think special means good, then you need to brush up on your cliché studies.
Wild Style immediately recognizes Emmett for the special when she sees him with the Piece of Resistance. As they escape, she begins to hope that her original assessment is wrong. Emmett, meanwhile, just goes along for the ride, mainly because he is a nice guy, but also because he likes Wild Style. Problem is, our heroine has a special thing for her boyfriend Batman, and Batman is as cool a boyfriend as anyone calling herself Wild Style could want. Two guesses as to how that turns out. Don’t guess too early though.
Anyone who thinks the movie can be relegated to pat messages about being special, being creative and not coloring within the lines would be wrong. This is to say, the plot is all over the place, but in the best way possible. It is a unforgivable cinematic sin if all the movie did was pass off a straight up message of business is evil. That was what happened with The Lorax, and we’re all dumber for having experienced it. Instead the movie pushes us to a sweet direction that completely makes sense once one shares the moment with the characters. More than being smart, the story is emotionally honest, and that is the biggest, best surprise of all.
If you haven’t seen this film, give it a chance. It takes the concepts in some of the best Pixar films and pushes them forward. Lord and Miller have shown exceptional film-making prowess outside of their first film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Then again, what they’ve done since has been so good, it makes one ponder if something was missed the first time around. One thing is sure, though. This film is an institution.
(***** out of *****)