Going into the cinema for The Lego Movie was like stepping into Disneyland for the first time. There was anticipation in the air. And it’s worth mentioning that the majority of viewers in the theatre were above the recommended ages of 9 to 14. This is a wonderful film, brimming with innovation and creativity, overflowing with humour, and sure enough of itself to let its content speak proudly without worrying about how many 10-year olds there are in the crowd.
The Lego Movie is animated by computers, and it has perhaps the most tactile and realistic effects of any animated film I’ve seen. I was convinced, even halfway into the film, that I was looking at real Lego pieces moving about in stop-motion. The (virtual) camera can zoom right up to a character’s eyes or hands and you can see the blemishes in the plastic. The texture. The contours. You can see the thickness of the paint and the little dents in the feet. I read that the filmmakers wanted to achieve a result that closely resembled stop-motion, and so they even simulated camera movements to mimic the flow of the Steadicam. This is precision animation at its most impressive.
It also doesn’t hurt to have some background knowledge about the product at hand. Lego is a Danish toy that uses a millimetre-perfect interlocking system to allow its users to build pretty much anything they want. I grew up on this toy (I use the word “toy” loosely). The pieces I had as a five-year old are still in my possession today, and they can still fit with the latest sets I’ve collected. Since 1958, the pieces have remained the same. Only the interlocking permutations have changed — by multiplying. Six eight-studded Lego bricks can be joined together over 950 million different ways. Go figure.
This nigh limitless possibility is brought across to The Lego Movie, whose inspirations stem from every corner of the Lego world. The story revolves around a construction worker minifigure named Emmet (Chris Pratt). He’s the usual average joe seen in movies; unrecognised and invisible. He’d be more helpful to his society if he were a doormat. But he has one thing on his side: Optimism. He’s a happy fellow. So happy in fact that he can burst out into song on the job site, providing the movie with a musical number that’s as grand and intricate as a Busby Berkeley stage piece, as catchy as that Carly Rae Jepsen song, and as dumb as that Justin Bieber song. You’ll be singing the chorus for a while.
Emmet stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance and is mistaken for the Special, the chosen one who has been prophesied to lead the rebellion against the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Business plans to use The Kragle to stop all the Master Builders of the Lego kingdom from reconstructing things. Business wants everything to remain the same, the way he intends it. The Kragle, in case you’re wondering, is a tube of glue (Krazy Glue with some letters smudged off), and the Piece of Resistance is the tube’s cap. Genius.
Helping Emmet are Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the old wizard whose eyes are like headlights; Batman (Will Arnett); ’80s-something space dude (Charlie Day); an odd unicorn/cat hybrid named Unikitty (Alison Brie); and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a sexy and rugged girl whose hair is strong enough to puncture a hard helmet. Their journey takes them across the Lego kingdom as they devise ways to overthrow Business and train Emmet in the ways of Master Building.
If this plot is sounding a bit ridiculous, that’s because it is. But this is the kind of ridiculous plot that works, mostly due to the movie’s two directors — Phil Lord and Chris Miller — who have very carefully crafted their zany flavour of comedy with movies like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. Viewers of those movies will certainly be able to identify with this one. And it takes a cast comfortable enough with themselves to populate a Lord/Miller film and make their characters hilarious. Take Freeman and Liam Neeson for instance. Their voices are easily recognisable, yet their tone and quickness are not. They are able to keep up with the movie’s pace, which zips from one scene and catastrophe to the next without giving a second thought to what’s been left behind.
The jokes come hard and very fast. I found myself laughing the most in the theatre, and possibly the loudest. But I also marvelled at the movie’s ingenuity. The way it uses its source product to tell a story. How its vehicles can be broken down and rebuilt from a car to a plane, or a plane to a spaceship. How the people live based on instruction manuals. How Batman’s head swivels 360˚ when he’s frustrated. The plot hits a downer somewhere in the third act, which yanked me out of the Lego world. All I wanted to do was crawl back in. But I don’t care. A sequel to The Lego Movie has already been planned. Usually I scoff at sequels, but this is one of the few movies that deserves one, and probably many more, because the possibilities are endless.
Best Moment | Oh boy. All of it, excluding the Worst Moment. Batman throwing his batarangs at a security switch had me in stitches. Actually, so did the rest of the movie.
Worst Moment | The third-act downer I mentioned.