Sunday, February 9, 2014

Everything Is Awesome

Year: 2014
Director: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG

Let me tell you, The Lego Movie had one of the least promising opening scenes of any comedy I've ever had the privilege to watch. It appears before anybody has a chance to get used to the somewhat jarring animation style and features the most YouTube-caliber comedy I've ever seen in a feature film. That is not a compliment.

This further reinforced my fears that The Lego Movie would be exactly what it sounds like - a feature length commercial with little to no redeeming value. But history has taught me to trust directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller when they make a film that seems like an outrageously bad idea. These are the men behind Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, after all.

Lo and behold, The Lego Movie is almost nothing like it seemed to be from the promotional campaign or even its own opening (Sidebar: What is it with Hollywood marketing these days that makes even the best films seem like generic garbage? It's like they're actively trying to deter viewership.).

Me every time I have to sit through another crappy movie preview.

Let me ask you a question: If you were tasked with creating a movie out of a narrative-less pile of colorful blocks, what genre would your story be? Action adventure? Romantic comedy? Maybe even an epic fantasy?

The Lego Movie is a dystopian rebellion movie and that is what separates the geniuses from you or me. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to pull influences from 1984 and Brave New World is a lunatic. But it totally, absolutely works. And it's pretty laugh out loud funny all the way through.

This is the story of Emmet (Chris Pratt), a construction worker who lives to follow the instructions (a brilliant bit of brand tie-in). He does everything he is told, listens to the music he is ordered to like, and has never had an original thought in his life.

But when he discovers a mysterious unknown Lego piece tied to a mystical prophecy, he uncovers the tyrannical president's secret plot to destroy the world and is whisked away by rebel agent Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) to train with the Master Builders (the only creative people left in the universe - with the power to assemble whatever they desire sans instructions) and save the world.

This wouldn't be the first time Chris Pratt has saved the world.

The message is simple and childlike in the best way possible - painted with broad strokes but absolutely resonant with children and adults alike, just like the eternally undervalued Adventure Time. Emmet is an anonymous nobody who needs to learn to believe in himself to unlock his creative potential.

Featuring a veritable clown car of guest actors including Charlie Day (!!!), Cobie Smulders, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Anthony Daniels, Will Forte, Alison Brie, Jake Johnson, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, and Shaq, as well as 21 Jump Street alums Channing Tatum, Dave Franco, and Jonah Hill (as well as one cameo that can't possibly be a surprise, but nevertheless feels like one so I shan't spoil it here), The Lego Movie has a thoroughly modern pop sense of humor that, despite some massive ADD, is topical and clever in ways that anybody of any age can enjoy.

The Lego Movie combines the whimsical (and low-rent) joy of playing with toys with a heartfelt message picture and rapid-fire comedy both lovably dumb and X-Acto sharp. Some of the busier action sequences are nearly impossible to contain in your visual cortex and the sheer amount of branded material is enough to make any copyright lawyer weep in fear, but it's a fun ride through and through.

But seriously. Rendering this frame alone must have taken binders of legal documents.

In the movie business, it has been a long, cold, lonely winter, and The Lego Movie provides a warm ember that lifts the spirits for the cinema slate of 2014.

You'll leave the theater singing, smiling, trading favorite lines (I myself am partial to "Come with me if you want to not die.") and fondly remembering childhood playtime. And even if it's not the best animated comedy that has ever been released, that is certainly good enough for me.

TL;DR: The Lego Movie surprises by not being terrible, but surprises even more by actually being pretty darn good.
Rating: 8/10
Should I Spend Money On This? Yes. You should.
Word Count: 762

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