I was a huge fiend for Lego as a child. I had bucket loads of it, all contained and categorised by colour in ice cream cartons. While we’ve seen low-end Lego animations over the years on YouTube, there hasn’t been any thing significant save this fantastic origin story. However that all changed this year when Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) turned their sights on the worlds most popular toy.
While I was a bit sceptical at first (mainly I was concerned it wouldn’t do justice to the vast scope of Lego’s potential), I’ve now seen it and I can quite comfortably say that everything with the Lego Movie is simply Awesome.
Seamlessly blending old-school stop-motion animation and new-school CGI techniques, The Lego Movie forges an entire world out of Lego. The sky, the clouds, the ocean, everything is sculpted from Lego, and it’s awesome to see the ingenuity of the creators on the Big screen. If I had one negative thought about the whole venture, it’s that I wasn’t involved in making some of this shit.
Yet it is even more satisfying to see such a faithful representation and high attention to detail; It’s the constant references to instructions and old kits, the fine moulding lines in the plastic, and the anthropomorphic restrictions imposed by a Lego body. It’s all the very core nature of Lego itself. It’s as if Toy Story focused on one toy only. And like Toy Story, all this blurry-eyed nostalgia is what really makes this film so enjoyable for old war veterans like myself.
The Toy Story comparison doesn’t stop there either. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This toy’s story focuses on Emmet (Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy) – a lowly nobody construction worker. In my childhood games he probably would have been a hapless bystander who is massacred by my Lego Robot Jox I would inevitably make rampage through my Lego city streets.
Emmet’s world is controlled by President Business (Will Ferrell – Anchorman), and he follows “instructions” on how to be happy in his mundane life. And happy he is. Until he randomly finds a piece of “resistance”, an unusual piece of plastic that certainly isn’t Lego. It’s here we start to learn that the world isn’t as it appears, as Emmet is drawn into a struggle between the forces of evil, and those who seek to save the Legoverse.
Unbeknownst to the denizens of the Lego world, there are many different “realms” (such as the City, or Medieval World, the Wild West) that co-exist under the rule of Lord Business. They’re all of course the various Lego sets that have been released over the decades. However, Lord Business strictly keeps these worlds apart, as he doesn’t like His Lego to be used to create anything beyond what the instructions say.
In fact, he hates the anarchic creativity of Lego, and he has spent years ridding the world of Master Builders – basically anyone who would use the Lego to build something from their own imagination. While Business is winning the war, there are still a handful of dissidents remaining: Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks – Hunger Games) and Batman (Will Arnett – Arrested Development).
It’s sort of like the Matrix, with less Jesus references and more Lego.
As a Final Solution to this problem, Business intends to unleash the “Krackle” – an old bottle of Krazy Glue. By sticking everything in place, his world can no longer be changed. Obviously Emmet and the Master Builders are in a race against time to stop him.
This film is simply dedicated to Lego. And not just selling it. Instead it celebrates the fact that it can be used to create anything we can imagine, and is effectively a story forged in the mind of a child.
The action is fast-paced and fun, and makes full use of the medium. There’s even a decapitation! But it’s the little things I love, like the little books of instructions, perfectly replicated from the blueprints included in every Lego set.
It is inspired how Wyldstyle see’s the world as individual bricks (complete with serial numbers!), just like Neo viewing the Matrix in full code mode. The inclusion of classic figures such as the weathered 1980’s spaceman Benny (Charlie Day – Horrible Bosses) further hammers home the nostalgia too.
Another hit is Lord Business’ room of “Relics” – non-Lego bits found by his drones. There is a Band Aid, a razor blade, a floppy disk, the Krazy Glue, amongst others. They’re all incompatible with Lego, and treated as such by Business, and it all ties in with the over-arching reality of the story (which I won’t spoil).
The cast is fantastic too. Chris Pratt as Emmet is perky, but deep, Banks as Wyldstyle is also sufficiently well realised. Will Ferrell is unusually restrained, though he does run riot with the pronunciations of the various relics he has has found. He is perfectly suited to the animated and live action (spoiler) segments of the film.
As a huge Batman fan, Will Arnett is dark, yet rediculous – the best voice of Bat’s since Kevin Conroy. They even throw in a number of Bat-centric jokes that perfectly tie in with the self-referential tone of the entire movie. Morgan Freeman is the wise Gandalf-figure (whom also features), and is clearly attacking the role with amused relish. I can imagine that perpetual knowing smile on his face throughout the recording.
Then there’s the endless cameos. Liam Neeson (Taken) as Bad Cop/Good Cop esques the darker and more badass roles of his later career, but tempers them with a streak of menace and madness. Alison Brie (Scream 4) also shows two sides to her super cute (and repressively angry) Uni-Kitty – part cat, part unicorn, all princess.
Beyond Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and Green Lantern also make an appearance. Voiced by Cobie Smulders (Avengers), Channing Tatum (Haywire), and Jonah Hill (Superbad), these three score some laughs, if you happen to know a little about the DC universe.
Continuing their display of licensed dominance, the Star Wars Millennium Falcon appearance is also perfectly timed. The free-wheeling Lando (with the genuine Billy Dee Williams no less!) jokes were inspired.
As I said earlier, despite all these impressive Lego touches, I never felt this film was about selling anything (though I’d love some of this stuff). Instead it has a number of messages, such as how following the instructions can sometimes be as important as ignoring them (and vice versa).
While Emmet morphs from uncreative, unspecial and mildly cretinous protagonist, into a natural, All-American Special Master Builder, I appreciated Lord Business’s transition more. Again, I won’t spoil it, but I can totally understand where his motivations lie.
It’s a movie that could easily have been made twenty years ago. While I would have loved this as a child (and subsequently insisted on getting all the tie-in Lego for Christmas/Birthday), I’m glad it wasn’t. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as a youngster.
Constructed by the geniuses behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, this film fulfills everything you’d want from a story about Lego. It ticks all the boxes, and it has a touching meaning. While it does all it needs to do, it’s huge success is breeding a sequel, something I don’t think it needs. Saying this, the sequels to Toy Story were unmissable, so maybe I’m being overly cautious again.
Like Toy Story, The Lego Movie creates a set of rules and a world within our own. But unlike the Disney Pixar trend-setter, this film marvels in it’s own creativity, and anyone whom ever played with Lego (or any toy for that matter), can appreciate where this film comes from. It’s a full blown nostalgia trip, but not just for the days when you played with the blocks themselves, but for the days when you could lose yourself in a world of your own creation as well.
Go see it.