“The Lego Movie” not missing any pieces



By Sam Winter, San Dieguito Academy, Encinitas, Calif.

Where can the Justice League meet the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Chewbacca? When can social commentary, partial nudity, and several on-screen decapitations pass with just a PG rating? How can I have fallen so in love with a two-hour toy commercial?

“The Lego Movie” was really made for lovers of Lego, incorporating as it does many of the finer details of the beloved plastic toy. Animated to mimic the stop motion films of many a childhood, the film uses vibrant computer animation to reach new heights in the medium, rendering such effects as rolling tides, gunfire, and smoke completely in plastic bricks. Some highlights include the use of Lego brick serial numbers, changes in camera zoom accompanied by changes in construction scale, and the inconspicuous use of actual stop motion among all the CGI, all adding to a distinct animation style.

At the heart of the film is the underlying struggle in every Lego builder’s life: Follow the directions provided with the set, or allow your creativity to run wild?”

Legos are not merely the medium; they really serve as the subject of the film. I don’t just mean that this is a movie about the adventures of average, complacent Lego figure, Emmet (Chris Pratt), as he joins forces with the creative genius of the “Master Builders” (Morgan Freeman and Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) to stop Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and his two-faced henchman, Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) from destroying the world on Taco Tuesday.

I mean that the Lego bricks themselves take center stage. “The Lego Movie” makes a point to showcase the wide world of plastic construction, from the amazing techniques used in modeling and motion, to the very limitations of the bricks themselves.

This movie found its strength in the details. Every scene is packed with background goodies, from iconic characters only a Lego aficionado would recognize, to clever posters and signage that whips by the screen. The superb casting of cameos includes the talent of Jonah Hill, Alison Brie, Channing Tatum, and Shaquille O’Neill as well as the return of Star Wars’ Anthony Daniels (C3PO) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian).

At the heart of the film is the underlying struggle in every Lego builder’s life: Follow the directions provided with the set, or allow your creativity to run wild? The movie does a good job of addressing this topic, and it’s more extreme implications, without providing a final say on which is correct.

On another level, the film comments on the classic ideas of family, teamwork, and believing in one’s self, topics I feared would drag the film the direction of a Hallmark special. To this reviewer’s delight, the film was saved from taking itself too seriously by the well timed appearance of Morgan Freeman and an inspirational cat poster. I’ll say no more.

The humor is the quick, visual punnery we’ve come to expect from directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” fame. Though occasionally the self-mocking humor felt out of place (like when a ghostly Lego hangs shakily on a string) the jokes are well done right up to the rather abrupt, somewhat meta, finale.

The film is filled with lighthearted jabs at consumerism and popular culture, including the catchy, conformist anthem, “Everything is Awesome,” a collaboration between indie rock duo Tegan and Sara and the comedy hip hop group Lonely Island. The irony of a film based on a multi-billion dollar plastic block manufacturer that criticizes standardization, consumerism, and overpriced coffee is not lost on this reviewer.

Outstanding voice acting, stunning visuals, and a nostalgia trip for Lego users everywhere all click into place without having to follow the instructions of “The Lego Movie’s” many animated predecessors.