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The Lego Movie (2014)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)

Voices: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie

Written By: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (also story), Dan Hagemen (story), Kevin Hageman (story)

Directed By: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

The Short Version

Many of us have been waiting our whole lives for this movie.

Surprise!  It’s entertaining for adults without betraying their childhoods!  And fun for kids too!

The plot’s familiar, but it’s a highly enjoyable adventure that’s easy to cheer for.

The artistic integrity of making everything look like real Legos come alive is wonderful to behold.

Do you have an imagination?  Then you need to experience the joy that is The Lego Movie.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

BRICK.

Come on.  It’s a Lego movie.  What other cheese could it possibly have been?


Pairs Well With...

VENTI MOCHA FRAPPUCCINO WITH A SHOT OF BAILEY’S.

How to make a tasty expensive coffee drink even tastier and more expensive.  (Full Disclosure: I have a Starbucks gold card.  Don’t judge.)

“Come with me if you want to not die!”


As is the case for so many millions of others, when I was growing up, my favorite toys were Legos.  Like most everyone else I knew, after first opening the box, I’d reverently follow the instructions to make the super cool building or vehicle or whatever it was pictured on the cover, and for the next few days – or, depending on just how super cool the set was, the next few weeks – my Lego adventures would be centered around this new masterpiece.  Inevitably, though, my imagination would take over, and the deconstruction and remodeling would commence.  Astronauts wandered around castles, cars drove into the cargo holds of space ships, and I’d made countless variants of X-Wing fighters long before any official licensing deals were reached with Lucasfilm.  I hung on to the original instruction books, of course, just in case I wanted to build one of the “on-the-box” designs again, but for the most part, once my own creativity took hold, that was it.

Who knew that a deliberately unspecified number of years later, someone would take that precise play experience from my childhood, combine it with the general plot framework of something called The Matrix, and turn it into a larger-than-life stereoscope motion picture?

Whether I or the millions of others who grew up with these amazing plastic catalysts of creativity realized it or not before previews started hitting the airwaves, The Lego Movie is something that I and we have been waiting nearly our whole lives for.  Sure, those licensed video game spin-offs of the past few years have been and still are pretty cool, but The Lego Movie takes things to a whole different level.  This isn’t simply a matter of licensed characters redrawn into the general shape of Lego minifigures who roam around an otherwise fairly standard animated game world.  This is the genuine Lego play experience magnified onto the big screen in amazing detail.  This is how we played.  This is how we built.  This is the kind of thing that happened when our imaginations ran wild and an astronaut with a crack at the bottom of his helmet and paint wearing off of his chest ended up inside of a custom made submarine being chased by unfriendly cops and weird looking robot machines.

This is the movie that my adult self didn’t believe anyone being paid by a major studio could possibly have the vision and the artistic integrity to make.  The more I think about it, the more stunned I am.

But let’s pause for a moment, because I’m sure that some people are doing double takes over my choice of the word “integrity.”  After all, The Lego Movie is, when all is said and done, a pretty blatant advertisement for a very specific line of toys (though I the case of Legos, I use the word “toy” with a fair amount a latitude), much like “G.I. Joe,” “Transformers,” “Care Bears,” “My Little Pony,” and pretty much every Saturday morning cartoon from the 80s onward has been, and it’s hard to find integrity in a sales pitch.  (Though if it can be done, it’s here, because while the film undeniably must be making toy store managers squeal with the anticipation of increased sales, the pitch really does take a back seat to nostalgia, fun, and imagination.)  However, I’m specifically using that word to describe the artistic vision of The Lego Movie, which stays as absolutely true to the Lego medium as possible in ways that none of the video games that preceded it have.  Sure, intellectually, we know it’s CGI, but the creative powers that be have gone out of their way to make sure that it doesn’t look like CGI to the greatest extent possible, but rather, like a stop motion feature played out by actual Legos.  When our hero takes a shower, the water and suds are made of Legos.  When there’s an explosion, the smoke and fire are made of Legos.  Laser blasts are Lego pieces.  When a ghost flies through the air, he’s held up by fishing line.  And, oh yes, there are very occasional strange relics like a stray 9 volt battery and a penny… much like there would be in most any self-respecting Lego enthusiast’s well-used toybox.  (It’s amazing what falls into those things.)  At a time when audiences have been trained to see hyperpolished CGI everywhere, this attention to faux stop motion detail is welcome, refreshing, and exactly what a Lego movie needs, especially one which, it turns out, is really all about what happens when we play.

And no, I won’t spoil the ending.  I’ll just say that while it’s the sort of thing I’m predisposed to heavily dislike in a flick like this, here, much to my shock and relief, not only did I not mind, but in fact, I rather liked it.  It makes sense, and it works.

As for what comes before…

One of the reasons the ending isn’t as shocking as it might otherwise be – at least for most audience members – is that the plot of The Lego Movie is a very blatant remix of The Matrix.  It’s not a complete lift, but more than enough to be obvious… and that’s okay.  “The Special” is “The One,” Vitruvius is Morpheus, Wyldstyle is Trinity; we get it.  The translation is creative, the adventure’s enjoyable, and as things play out, the similarities are just one more thing for the audience to grin at.  Besides, with guest spots including but by no means exclusive to Batman, Wonder Woman, Shaq as himself, and – aw, yeah! – Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels as Lando Clarissian and C-3PO, there’s plenty of cool reference pointing to go around.  Once again, it all comes down to fun.  Lots and lots of fun.

Even the magnified social commentary on conformist, homogenized culture – even more obvious here than it is in the story being borrowed from – is presented as a source of amusement.  (The keys to happiness are overpriced coffee, watching that one TV show everyone else watches, and eating wings at the sports bar; it says so in The Instructions!)  As for that disturbingly catchy tune, “Everything is Awesome…”  Well, it’s disturbingly catchy.  (Don’t panic; this is not a sing-along.)

Are my glowing thoughts about The Lego Movie heavily colored by nostalgia and the memories of thousands of hours creating and building with some of the greatest toys in the world?  You bet they are.  But you know what?  Millions of people have the same sorts of memories I do, and while it’s a sure bet that no two of us ever built the exact same thing the exact same way once we were done with The Instructions… well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  The Lego Movie reminds us about one of the most fun parts of being a kid, how the joy needn’t get lost to adults, and the fun of sharing it with your own kids… or, barring that, at least with your own inner child.  Is it a commercial?  Of course it is, but it’s one that simply puts a mirror in front of the audience and says “Hey, this is how you play/played with our stuff already; isn’t/wasn’t that cool?”

Yes.  Yes it is.

Bottom line, The Lego Movie is too much fun to miss.  If you ever played with Legos, and if you have any imagination at all, you need to experience this.

And remember… everything is awesome!

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2014


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