The Lego Movie (2014)

Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller

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The Lego Movie is all about the hero’s journey, that old tale in which an ordinary person is plucked out of reality and told they’re special.  It’s Neo from The Matrix, Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker, all set in a stimulating world like that of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is that hero.  He’s a construction worker who does nothing but follow the rules.  He’s amused by the one tv show on tv, he loves the only pop song you’re allowed to listen to, and he considers everyone his friend, even though they don’t know his name and can barely seem to recall who he is.

When a woman with blue and purple hair shows up and calls him “special,” he quickly falls in love with her and wants nothing more than to prove that he is indeed special.  He’s not special, however, and he knows that the thing that makes him matter to them is based purely on being in the right place at the right time.  This woman is Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and she wants the MacGuffin onto which Emmet has stumbled and which is meant to solve all of their problems.

What Emmet doesn’t realize is that the world he lives in, a booming metropolis, is one of several themed worlds.  Others include the Old West, a trippy dreamscape, something in the clouds, and basically anything and everything.  They are all run by President Business (Will Ferrell), a man who craves only control and who will soon unleash a plan to freeze everyone in place with a glue gun.  The red brick Emmet possesses is supposed to put a stop to this.

Emmet’s and Wyldstyle’s journey takes them through these assorted worlds and introduces them to a variety of lego characters like Batman, Han Solo, Gandalf, Shaquille O’Neal, Green Lantern, Superman, Abe Lincoln, a RoboCop-esque pirate, Wonder Woman and Shakespeare.  This smörgåsbord of characters will help contribute to the movie’s theme, of individuality.

What President Business wants to do is control everything, and he has slowly been doing this for sometime.  The people who work for him are robots, and he’s in charge of everything, including tv and radio and I suppose the news in general.  For Emmet, a do-good rules follower, President Business is quite the impressive fellow.  It’s only as he opens his eyes that he sees he really lives in Lego North Korea and that Business needs to be stopped.

Eventually Emmet will confess that he’s not special, but the man who foretold the prophecy (Morgan Freeman) will confess that he made it all up.  He knows Emmet isn’t special, but no one is, at least not until they believe they are.  What he’s getting to is that age old message that there’s a hero inside all of us, and the movie’s climax will deal with the rest of the booming metropolis opening their own eyes and accessing this hero.

Most people in this world are “master builders.”  They can assemble absurd creations in a matter of seconds, whether they be space ships, double-decker couches or, I don’t know, other Transformers.  Anything they need can effectively be summoned in a moment’s notice, and it’s this magic that helps give the movie its wonderfully zany energy.  The magic of animation, Legos and kids movies in general is on full display here.

So even though they have this power, they are still at the mercy of President Business, not because they aren’t capable of defeating him but because they simply have no reason to.  They live under his monarchy, though when they simply decide to work as a team (parroting the movie’s theme song “Everything Is Awesome”), victory is surprisingly swift.

The third act will finally pull back revealing the broader, non-Lego world which had been hinted at throughout the movie.  This suddenly makes the Lego characters feel like the toys of Toy Story, though the mission they find themselves embroiled in takes up the entire film while in Toy Story it serves only as the prologue, the facade of which is quickly destroyed.

It’s this reveal which I really appreciated, though it may be a bit on the nose.  That being said, this is a kids’ movie, and who am I, an adult, to say it’s on the nose?  It should be on the nose.  It’s a sweet, well-rendered story with a clear message and life/death stakes which are seamlessly transitioned into something less consequential but much more human.  It also lets us watch Will Ferrell playing a character type we’ve seen many times before, whether it was in his debut SNL sketch…

…or in something like Kicking & Screaming, basically the man-child father.

Up Next: Amarcord (1973), The Christmas Chronicles (2018), Say Anything… (1989)

 

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