11th Feb2014

‘The Lego Movie’ Review – A second opinion

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Chris Pratt, Liam Neeson, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day | Written and Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

the-lego-movie-cast

The Lego Movie is an odd idea. There’s so many layers of pop cultural sediment in the film, it’s dizzying. DC characters rub shoulders with Gandalf, Ninja Turtles, Star Wars folks and many others whilst Lego’s own characters bimble about alongside them. If we look the Batman character, who is clearly a parody of Christian Bale in the Dark Knight series, we’re basically watching a film of the toy of another film of a comic book. You might think that this wouldn’t all stick together to form anything approaching a coherent film, but remarkably it does. Pop is eating itself, but it’s making a really good feast of it.

Story-wise, we follow Emmet (Chris Pratt), a little Lego man and the epitome of the average Joe, who gets embroiled in a plot to stop the evil ruler of the Lego people, Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who is planning to end the Lego world as we know it. The Lego world as we know it is made of different areas (city, wild west, etc) and populated by figures and buildings ripped from the pages of the Argos catalogue.

The most striking aspects of the film are its visual style and production design. The combination of stop motion and CGI gives The Lego Movie a mesmeric quality that’s difficult to take your eyes away from. Coupled with some inspired and bonkers sets, characters and vehicles, the look of the film is really very impressive and displays an almost gratuitous level of creativity. I could be wrong, but it looked to me like pretty much everything in the film could be made with actual, existing Lego pieces (though obviously quite a lot of them) which is an impressive touch. Directors and writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (responsible for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street and their sequels) have also brought a pleasingly zany sense of humour to proceedings and the script is packed with genuinely funny material (I particularly liked the rubbish in-film TV comedy ‘Where Are My Pants?’) and smart moments.

Lord and Miller have enlisted the cream of American sitcom talent to voice their characters. Pratt is joined by fellow Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman as Metal Beard a kind of cyborg pirate, Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett voices Batman, Community‘s Alison Brie is happy-happy freak animal Uni-Kitty and Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and the aforementioned Will Ferrell bulk out the main cast. There are also brilliant cameos aplenty.

Amid the wackiness and general lack of sense, there are some interesting ideas addressed. If you’re going to explore the dynamic between the unfettered creativity of the individual and adherence to social conventions and the strength of the collective whilst still being appealing to the under sixes, then Lego is a good medium with which to do so. When some play with Lego, they follow the instructions to the letter whereas others will mash together any sets they have to hand and the film portrays these opposing stances and argues a case for both of them well. There’s also a pleasingly anti-authoritarian angle which complements the general feel of the film – at times, I was quietly impressed that Lego (not to mention DC et al) had given Lord and Miller licence to be as ridiculous and at times ridiculing as they pleased with their brand.

It becomes apparent as the film goes on that it’s actually a fairly astute retelling of a popular late nineties sci-fi, or at least, if it isn’t, it bears an uncanny resemblance to it. I’m reluctant to name the film The Lego Movie so closely parodies/pays tribute to as that would potentially give away the not unpredictable but well-implemented ‘prestige’ act of the film. It’s a bizarre piece of work, but refreshingly so. It may be operating within a weird self-reflexive reality that I can’t quite work out, being the owner of a brain that’s over twelve years old and at times it’s a shameless advert for little plastic bricks, but there’s a smirk on the film’s metaphorical yellow face whist it’s doing this. The Lego Movie is the funniest, most jubilant joyride of a film I’ve seen in ages.

The Lego Movie opens across the UK from Friday February 14th.

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One Response to “‘The Lego Movie’ Review – A second opinion”

  • Jack

    I forgot to mention how great Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo)’s music is, especially Batman’s theme!