THE director duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been known to mine gold from unexpected material (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) and as such prove to be an inspired choice for the first big screen feature of the eponymous toy brand.
Whilst a straightforward and generic storyline would have been sufficient to carry out a cynical, opportunistic cash-grab, The Lego Movie surprises by actually being smart, witty and delightfully post-modern in its execution.
For fans of Lego, there are plenty of in-jokes. From everything in the film being made from actual Lego pieces (including effects such as fire, water, smoke and gunfire), the appearance of many popular minifigures from Lego’s back catalogue, the references to part numbers and both existing and old Lego themes, there is plenty of fan service to the Lego legacy. But this isn’t just a film that happens to feature Lego characters, it’s a film about Lego itself: the possibilities of building, creativity, teamwork and also (surprisingly for a something so heavily brand-based) messages of non-conformity and expressions of individuality.
This all culminates in a daring third act reveal that in lesser hands would threaten to derail the entire movie. Here however, although jarring at first, it makes sense of all the chaotic anarchy leading up to that point and actually serves to further cement the themes of the movie – the result of which makes it all the more emotionally heartfelt.
Elsewhere the film is genuinely funny. From self-aware humour poking fun at ‘the chosen one’ tropes, comedy at the expense of the Lego figures physical movement (or often the inflexibility thereof), to riffs on everything from The Terminator, Lord of the Rings and The Matrix – there is plenty to enjoy here. Although Liam Neeson’s performance as a schizophrenic policeman (with a propensity for booting chairs) will likely be the most memorable, a restrained Will Ferrell (President Business) and a scene-stealing Will Arnett (Batman) are also highlights. Chris Pratt also brings a likeable earnestness to the lead Emmet and will be one to watch in the future with a leading role in Marvel’s forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.
Elsewhere, the film is visually stunning. All the designs have been carefully thought out to represent real Lego. As well as the aforementioned references to part numbers and the use of Lego pieces for effects, there is a worn quality to the pieces – close-ups reveal finger smudges and chips to some edges. The use of the occasional vocal sound effects, the deliberate stop-motion look to the animation and the wacky custom designs not only adds charm to the film but also later makes sense in context of the story. It’s masterfully put together.
A 3D viewing of the film is also recommended, as it further enhances the shapes and physicality of the bricks (as well as the spaces in between) and adds to the excitement of the action sequences – which often involve chase scenes with vehicles or similar contraptions being speedily built on the fly.
Of course kids will love it, but The Lego Movie comes recommended for older generations too. The inclusion of more adult-orientated jokes to keep the parents interested seems de rigueur for animated movies these days, but here the adult perspective also features as part of the story. AFOLs (the official acronym for Adult Fans of Lego) will certainly see an element of themselves here in one particular character.
Lego are undoubtedly going to sell a tonne of merchandise off the back of this film, but instead of a simply being a cynical cash-in, The Lego Movie is an unexpected delight that will appeal to existing fans of LEGO and quite easily make fans of those who may have been previously ambivalent.
And despite featuring a (somewhat purposefully) irritating theme song – I guarantee you will be humming it for a day or two after watching. Everything is indeed awesome.
(Score: 4.5 out of 5)