The LEGO Movie

Review by Chris Blohm @chrisblohm

Directed by

Christopher Miller Phil Lord

Starring

Craig Berry Elizabeth Banks Will Arnett

Anticipation.

Sassy trailer aside, does the world really need another shameless tie-in?

Enjoyment.

Brick-by-brick, Lord and Miller’s feature-length commercial is surprisingly raucous and highly caffeinated treat.

In Retrospect.

Trip the plastic fantastic.

Is this a glossy feature-length advert for toys? Nope, it’s a whimsical and hilarious piece of animated nostalgia from Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Could it be true? Is scatterbrained construction opus The LEGO Movie really the biggest, longest, most relentlessly kaleidoscopic toy commercial ever made? There are moments when this hypercharged odyssey certainly feels like it. It’s not really a film, as such. More like the depraved Hollywood habit for extreme product placement taken to its natural, horrifying conclusion. By rights, it should be terrible. And yet, against all the odds, everything just clicks together.

The film stars Chris Pratt (immensely likeable, as ever, even when he’s not physically on-screen) as Emmet, a builder busy scraping a living in a fake plastic land. One day, after a particularly bombastic shift down at the site, Emmet discovers the mysterious Piece of Resistance. It’s an ancient artefact that, according to the prophecy of Vitruvius (a playful Morgan Freeman, in full-on God mode) will foil the plans of the evil President Business (Will Ferrell, channelling his inner Mugatu) and save this precarious pocket universe from an eternity of glue-based terror.

At its worst, when the film is in “hero’s journey” mode, The LEGO Movie feels like a manic spin on Disney’s dull video game yarn Wreck-it Ralph, albeit much smarter in its execution and architecture. At its best, it’s a whirling dervish that recalls the inventiveness of top-tier Aardman or the surreal flights of Michel Gondry.

Admittedly the plot is little more than a springboard for all manner of brick-based visual tomfoolery. As Emmet and his band of fools (including Will Arnett as the most hilariously douchey version of Batman ever) travel through an assortment of worlds (Middle Zealand! Cloud Cuckooland! The Old West!) there’s a series of gleefully imaginative set-pieces that thrill in their sheer sense of physicality. Explosions. Clouds. Even waves upon the sea. They’re all vividly brought to life in tactile chunks of pixellated LEGO. It’s like that iconic White Stripes video (going back to Gondry) but blown up to an epic scale. As a result, there’s real texture and sensuality to the action that you simply don’t get in most studio CG fare. Craftsmanship abounds.

You can thank Phil Lord and Chris Miller for that. They’re the irreverent talents behind the similarly unhinged Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and that affably sacrilegious 21 Jump Street reboot from a couple of years ago. We’re always shocked when anything made by this devilishly talented duo turns out infinitely better than it has any right to be. But why the surprise? They have imagination in spades, and the resources of a small country, like some kind of Satanic combo of Hammer & Tongs and Judd Apatow. They should be cheered and feared in equal measure.

Like their previous films, The LEGO Movie takes giddy pleasure in building up a meticulous and ludicrous universe, only to knock it down again in an epileptic fit of childish abandon. It’s possibly one of the most entertaining films about nostalgia to emerge from the studio system since Disney decided to crank the The Muppets back into bittersweet action in 2012.

Not all the jokes connect, and perhaps that’s inevitable when you’re dealing with something that’s so jam-packed with whimsy. Thankfully, the film’s impudence calms down in an audacious, divisive final movement that sees Lord and Miller steer their story into more melancholic territory. Here, they rather fearlessly and, arguably, quite clumsily position The LEGO Movie for consideration alongside some of the great films about childhood and imagination, like Where the Wild Things Are or Time Bandits. Their eyes are clearly bigger than their stomach, however, and they don’t quite manage the transition. But how thrilling to see them try.

Published 9 Feb 2014

Tags: Christopher Miller Computer Animation Lego Phil Lord

Anticipation.

Sassy trailer aside, does the world really need another shameless tie-in?

Enjoyment.

Brick-by-brick, Lord and Miller’s feature-length commercial is surprisingly raucous and highly caffeinated treat.

In Retrospect.

Trip the plastic fantastic.

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