Tuesday, 8 April 2014

[Review] The Lego Movie

Who knew? What could very easily have been a crass, cynical, cheap marketing ploy of a movie, in the wrong hands, has turned out to be quite the opposite. The Lego Movie has finally arrived on our shores and low and behold; it lives up to the astonishing hype surrounding it.

The world of Lego is ruled under fascist-like dictatorship of the all-powerful President Business (voiced by Will Ferrel). The civilians of Lego-World are subliminally brainwashed by the media, mainly with pop songs such as the infectiously catchy number "Everything is Awesome". It is a totalitarian state; only, the civilians are completely oblivious to the fact. President Business strives for a world of complete perfection. To achieve perfection, he plans to drench the world of Lego with "Kragle", thus locking everyone and everything into place.

Low and behold, an ancient prophecy stands in the way. The Prophecy for-tells of an average individual who shall step forward and overthrow the conformity imposed by President Business. Enter Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt), an ordinary construction worker, who, when we first meet him, lives life in accordance to the pre-set instruction manual. He is entirely bland and without a singular thought. Even amongst so-called friends he fails to make an impression. With the help of a fiery, free spirit master-builder named Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Emmett sets out on his quest to save Lego-World from the dreaded “Kragle”.

In a journey that takes us from the Old West to the gloriously off-the-walls Cloud Cuckoo Land overseen by the adorable if not contradicting Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie), we meet all sorts of colourful Master Builders who yearn to break free of the instructions imposed down upon them. As anyone who has played with Lego already knows, it’s more fun to create randomly then it is to stick to the rules. For Emmett, it’s an ideal that he must learn along the way. Chris Pratt is ideally cast as the average guy turned saviour. He has an undeniable upbeat charisma, but his personality appropriately lacks thanks to his blandness.

The jokes are fast and frenetic, and the plot changes threads without missing a single beat. It moves at such a frenetic pace, perfectly capturing a sense of anarchic childhood imagination. Most of the humour comes from the deconstruction of the “Chosen One” trope. For instance, the for-told prophecy must be true for no other reason then simply because it “rhymes”. As they have shown before, Writers/Directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) are no strangers to deconstructive comedy. Just take a look at their treatment of Batman (voiced by a narcissistic Will Arnette). The once iconic brooding avenger is now depicted as a brazen, egomaniac type. It’s a fun riff on not only the character, but also at fan’s infallible opinion towards the character.

But it’s not just Batman who gets the special treatment. A whole host of iconic pop-culture characters appears only to be lovingly lampooned moments later. It also manages to take aim at societal norms, such as insanely overpriced coffee or even poking fun at the declining state of sitcoms. The movie is packed wall-to-wall with jokes that it’s hard not to draw comparisons with earlier spoof-comedies from the Zucker Brothers. All of this helps to convey that wildly free-anarchic childlike imagination, for which they are attempting to recreate. It is such an all-over-the-place story that it could only come from the mind of a child.

The animation is perfect in all respects. The talented animators over at Warner Bros Digital Studios have smartly recreated a stop-motion aesthetic without resorting to stop-motion techniques. The attention to detail is second to none. The animators and art designers have managed to achieve a life like quality to these minuscule Cgi rendered Lego figurines and environments. You could almost believe that a talented team of filmmakers had built this world and painstakingly filmed it in-camera with real-world Lego blocks. It’s an astonishing technical achievement that should be rightfully applauded.

At its most base, The Lego Movie could have turned out to be nothing more than a cynical and crass marketing effort from Warner Brothers and Lego to shill the numerous licensing brands they hold in their possession. And yet, Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have built something that is not without a surprising amount of heart. The Lego Movie is not just a feature length commercial for a toy – although, don’t be surprised if you do feel the urge to buy some Lego on the way home, but it is, in fact, a smart, funny, and self-aware love note to the freedom of childhood imagination.


(out of Five)

-Daniel M



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