Emmet, an average construction worker in Lego Land, starts the day like any other. Happy and seemingly content with his life, he doesn’t have a care in the world — only this day is different. With the evil Lord Business secretly planning to end all life as our plastic pals know it, Emmet must take on the unlikely role of savior for his people. With each passing moment, Emmet must find the strength to become the ultimate “Masterbuilder” before it’s too late and Lord Business releases the Kragle.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, “The Lego Movie” is nothing short of spectacular. The dynamic directing duo, also responsible for possibly the funniest movie ever made in 2012’s “21 Jump Street,” again hit it out of the park with their tale of toys and taco Tuesdays. Given this is only the second feature helmed by the two, it’s not hard to see there are big things ahead.
Paced at a briskly refreshing 100 minutes, the first thing you’ll notice is how fast the story moves. They say time flies and great filmmaking reminds me of this every time. Now while the direction isn’t the most successful attraction on display, there is something to admire in the building block fantasy’s internal rhythms. The film hits the necessary story beats, while also extremely surprising your trusty reviewer with its ending. Simply put, there are absolutely no wasted scenes in the tale.
The acting in “The Lego Movie” is downright moving. Featuring some of the best talent in the film business, the movie is cast perfectly. While it’s true that the talent are just lending their voices to the material and aren’t actually being photographed, some claim the work isn’t as difficult, but I say that’s a huge misstep. There are many reasons an actor would choose to do a non self-physical price of entertainment. However advantages, performers lose the power of facial acting. If anybody has ever seen Bryan Cranston’s amazing work on Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013) then you know exactly what I mean. The performers must make up for this disadvantage with tone accuracy and complete authenticity in their voice here.
Bringing our unlikely hero to life, hilariously named Emmet Brickowoski, is none other than Chris Pratt. Some may not know him by name yet, but I expect that to change. With reputable work already turned in for Bennet Miller’s superb “Moneyball” (2011), Spike Jonze’s touching “Her” (2013), and starring in the fall release Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
One scene highlighting Pratt’s talent involves Emmet giving the Masterbuilders a pep talk. Masterbuilders are the Jedi of the tale; Emmet is not one of them. Right when all hope is lost, Emmet gives an overwhelming speech to the group. This is a pure testament to Pratt, because I’m willing to bet donuts to dollars that by this point in the feature every single person in that theater you are in, should you choose to see it (yes the one with the overpriced snacks that seemingly end up mostly on the theater floor) are completely sold on Pratt and his likability. His likability is the actor’s strength. He can be relatable and likable with ease in every scenario.
Other actors rounding out the stellar cast include Elizabeth Banks, playing the tough as nails Wyldstyle. She brings reservation and anger-fueled depth to the role, which is key here. In fact, all the actors bring their “A” work. Anyone still needing to be sold on the voice work should know Morgan Freeman voices a God/Morpheus type character. There is also a surprise actor that is good enough to have people making a “steal the show” argument.
Written by the film’s directing team, the script for “The Lego Movie” is extremely witty and self-referential. Those who love Wes Craven’s masterpiece “Scream” (1996), or Drew Goddard’s vastly underrated “Cabin in the Woods” (2012), will find the humor much the same. The two writers know the audience will never forget the fact that this world and everything in it are in fact Legos. Instead of attempting to neglect this, the two decide to use it as a building block, so to speak. The result is something fascinating.
Part of that fascination came from one of the film’s main themes. The film is about, stripped of all the paint, being yourself and embracing your own uniqueness. It’s a great message and the pair basically poke fun at those who want to conform just to seem cool. It was hard not leaving the theater feeling super happy to be me. I’m sure you will have the same experience.
The film also works for children as well. If it’s a surprise that it took me this long to even type the word children, imagine how surprised you’ll be when you see the thing. It’s magical to both kids and adults. Most of the humor on display isn’t crude, but also isn’t the type that most kids understand. “The Lego Movie” is a different beast entirely; poignant.
This is the thing that’s different between this and other children’s films; it actually has something to say. Much like dynamic duo’s stellar “21 Jump Street,” there is goofy modern comedy but also a huge heart at its core. I can say, with all the confidence in the world, that I got choked up at the end. I imagine many will, that is if you are or were ever part of the modern American family. What the writing pair do with the subject is brilliant and I walked out of the theater on a natural high. At the end of the day, “The Lego Movie” is sharply written and a sign there are still a few brains left in Hollywood.
You’d be hard pressed to find another film like this year’s “The Lego Movie.” The creators know the kids are there for the toys, the adults are there for what’s done with them. For that, The Lego Move should be a point of pride for all involved; the piece excels. So grab your loved ones by the hand, regardless of age, and discover the magic. You might just build a few relationships while you’re at it.