The Lego Movie (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★
Packed with impressive visuals and a witty script that consistently amuses, “The Lego Movie,” based on the screenplay and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is an animated film that many claim is equal to this decade’s “Toy Story.” Though it is an entertaining work on its own, compared to John Lasseter’s film, Lord and Miller’s work functions on a lower level.
Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) has a proclivity for categorization. Seeing different types of legos from different generations, themes, universes interacting just won’t do. So, he concocts a scheme: by using a device called the “Kragle” (short for Krazy Glue), not even the rebels collectively known as Master Builders—talented lego characters with the ability to assemble a pile of legos into weapons, mode of transport, or whatever they wish to create—will be able to redo or remove what he and his followers have constructed. However, it has been prophesied that eventually someone called the “Special” will rise and put an end to Lord Business’ evil plan. This chosen one turns out to be a very ordinary construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt).
The images exude a confident vivacity that is rare in movies—animated or otherwise. Because each lego character has a specific way of moving in one space, from one point to another, and expressing himself or herself, there is rarely a dull moment. We are given time to appreciate the details and we wonder how the filmmakers managed to make every leading and supporting character stand out. In other words, what is shown on screen is not just pretty pictures. It is refreshing when we feel like some thought and effort are actually put into the project instead of relying on vapid cuteness to appeal to the crowd. Yes, I’m looking at you, “Despicable Me 2.”
But the movie is not a completely immersive experience. Many of the jokes that are very funny when uttered or shown once or twice end up being repeated so much that they lose their impact. It tests the patience. More importantly, the romantic subplot between Emmet and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is forced and unnecessary. Why is it that so many animated movies these days feel like they must have some sort of romance? I don’t mind—as long as they work. But, really, we should ask ourselves: Do young children really care about the idea of romantic love being reciprocated? If the subplot were targeted for adults, it should have been written smarter, with a little more sweetness, maybe a bit more seduction. I did not care whether Wyldstyle and Emmet would end up together.
As a result, instead of building a steady upward momentum, the film is significantly less interesting when the two lovebirds interact. Why not simply focus on the mission? When I was a kid playing with LEGO bricks and toys, it was all about explosions, surprising twists, time running out, and rescuing captured comrades (or resurrecting them if they happened to have been killed in action). Even with my female action figures, they were not used as crushes or love interests for my male action figures. Why? Because saving the word—in this film, several universes—is more important than holding hands.
“The Lego Movie” really shines in the final quarter. The screenplay takes the characters’ universe and adds another dimension. I was surprised because at times I found myself quite moved with the parallels and differences drawn between one world and another. It was then I knew: the film is dedicated to children around the world of past, present, and future who use their toys as a conduit to their imagination.