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Should I Watch..? The Lego Movie
What's the big deal?
The Lego Movie (sometimes stylised as "The LEGO Movie") is an animated family comedy film released in 2014 and is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the pair behind 21 Jump Street. Based on the popular construction toy, it is the first film produced by the Warner Animation Group since 2003. It was a surprise critical and commercial success, so much so that a second and third film are being made (at the time of writing). Its ensemble cast features Will Arnett, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson. So popular was the film, in fact, that there was briefly a Lego shortage in September 2014 as children across the globe rushed out to buy Lego sets including recreations of the movie's characters and scenes.
What's it about?
The majority of the film is set in a Lego-built universe where the wizard Vitruvius battles to protect a superweapon called the Kragle from the evil Lord Business. After he is defeated, Vitruvius predicts that a powerful figure called The Special will find the mysterious Piece Of Resistance which will render the Kragle useless. Eight years later and construction worker Emmet encounters the beautiful Wyldstyle searching in his construction site. Pursuing her, he accidentally becomes fused with the Piece Of Resistance and experiences a number of visions including a strange figure called "the Man Upstairs".
Emmet's misfortunes continue as he is rescued from President Business's henchman Good Cop/Bad Cop by Wyldstyle who believes that Emmet is The Special. Convinced that ultimate victory is at hand, Wyldstyle leads Emmet on a wild adventure across the known lands while the forces of evil are never far behind...
Batman / Bruce Wayne
Good Cop / Bad Cop / Pa Cop
Lord Business / President Business
Benny the 1980's Space Guy
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller *
Release Date (UK)
14th February, 2014
Animated, Comedy, Family
Academy Award Nomination
Best Original Song
What's to like?
I find it staggering that of all the things it could have been nominated for, the Academy chose its repetitive and annoying song. Why not the animation because this is one of the best animated films I've ever seen - it's designed to look like everything is built in Lego and animated in a stop-motion style but the quality of the CG is breath-taking. The attention to detail is glorious, making every character feel alive and living in this strange and unusual place. It is a glorious triumph of the imagination, as is the story. It might be a thinly-veiled rip-off of The Matrix (2) but the dialogue sparkles and crucially, they have learnt the lesson that Pixar have been preaching for years - that any family film must appeal to adults as well as children. Speaking of the story, don't expect everything to be straight forward - the movie throws in the odd twist or so.
Vocal performances are also fantastic - Neeson is hilarious as Good Cop/Bad Cop but Arnett's Batman is a revelation, proving that the Dark Knight can have a laugh every now and again. It also avoids feeling too much like product placement - the whole thing is essentially a feature-length advert for Lego but frankly, you're having too much fun to notice. Kids will love the story and the pace of the film as it leaps from weird landscape to weird landscape. Adults will laugh at the in-jokes and enjoy the nostalgia - I loved every minute with Benny, a figure I myself owned which was broken in the same place as well!
- The word "Lego" is never spoken at any time in the film.
- Morgan Freeman has stated that the version of Batman in this film is his all-time favourite incarnation.
- UK cinema showings of this film had adverts for BT Infinity Broadband and Confused.com before the main showing recreated in Lego.
What's not to like?
Quite simply, the final third. What was shaping up to be a five-star picture throws it all away when it merges with the real world, becoming an all-too-predictable fable about following your imagination and not running with the crowd. If only the film followed its own advice - I didn't want or need the moral of the story crudely tacked on in such a manner because it was an undercurrent anyway. At least it gave the story some purpose, solving the mystery of what exactly the Kragle was but by this point, the story was getting increasingly weird and I started rapidly losing interest.
It's such a shame that they cocked the ending up - I wanted more of the story, more of the madness that felt like it flowed from a child's imagination. I didn't want Will Ferrell realising that he was the true baddie and soft music underlining the point. What had been noisy, colourful and genuinely funny became a stodgy and lumpen mess and it completely ruins the film's mojo. The last gag brings it all back again but by then, the damage had been done.
Should I watch it?
Watch it with children and then watch them tear through whatever Lego pieces they have (and whatever ones they now want) and indulge their imaginations. Or you can watch it yourself and remember how great it felt to construct buildings of your own design and tell stories that you yourself had come up with. It can't sustain its momentum but The Lego Movie is one seriously good picture and one that anyone with kids would do well to watch together.
Great For: the Lego company, hyperactive kids, families
Not So Great For: senior citizens, fans of traditional animation, people with short-term memory problems
What else should I watch?
This is a plethora of family entertainment out there but an awful lot of it is dross. Pixar, generally speaking, are the kings of family entertainment as they have been making feature-length CG films since 1995's Toy Story (3). For me, their most family-friendly film is probably Toy Story 3 (4) which is both exciting, entertaining and also heart-wrenching at times - I defy anyone not to have a lump in their throat come the finale. But Pixar's best picture ever is WALL·E (5), a superbly animated fable about the dangers of commercialisation, overconsumption and environmental catastrophe set against two robots with a rudimentary understanding of what it is to love. I adore that film so much, it's unhealthy.
Non-Pixar films can still be worth tracking down, though. Happy Feet (6) is an unusual combination of musical and penguins but great fun, though probably more for kids than adults. Of course, The Muppets (7) never go out of fashion as their recent revival is a stonking mix of catchy songs, characters you all know and love and slapstick comedy.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox