Call me a cynic, but I never thought a film called The Lego Movie could be so fun.
But it is.
The film is written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, makers of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street; and you should expect similar antics in The Lego Movie. It is saturated with outrageous action sequences, pun filled dialogue, and non-sequitur hilarity. Add into the mix Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, and Chris Pratt — it’s a nonstop, fun-filled ride.
And I’m not saying that just because I was swept away by my own nostalgia — I used to build whole worlds and stories with my own collection of Lego.
The story follows a seemingly ordinary everyman, Emmet (Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt) as he joins a band of rebels who are trying to stop the tyrannical Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from changing everything unique or original into a drab, cookie cutter replacement. It pits the power of creativity against uniformity as an epic battle for freedom that spans worlds, from a boring urban landscape to the wild west, a medieval fantasy realm, the oddball Cloud Cuckoo land, and beyond.
But what makes The Lego Movie work so well is it follows its own advice: it has fun by defying convention and genre, mixing and mashing characters and plots and settings from pop culture and history. Characters and references from dozens of other franchises are thrown in to the pot, as if the movie was a massive, cultural stew. You’ll meet one of the best Batmans ever, character cameos from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, superheroes, sports stars, historical figures. The list goes on and on. There are a few surprises that left my jaw hanging open before turning into an ear splitting grin.
Because that’s the essence of the movie: play and entertainment are not about rigid structure and compartmentalizing, they are about the power of the imagination. The concept is reminiscent of Walter Wangerin Jr.’s The Book of the Dun Cow, in which some very industrious ants take a holiday from incessant work, only to “play” their games with such seriousness and rigour that it is never a game, merely another job to be done. The Lego Movie dismantles this idea of play and games as merely going through motions, and instead, builds it up — brick by brick — to consist of the love of creating, trial and error, and boundless originality.
Most critics love the first two thirds of The Lego Movie, but they begin to disagree about the ending. It takes a decidedly daring turn, albeit one I could see coming, but it’s ultimately an awkward transition into a different sort of movie than it was at the start. My first reaction was one of betrayal: this expansive, imaginative universe the filmmakers had created was suddenly different than I thought.
But it ultimately doesn’t matter, because even with the divisive ending, The Lego Movie is innovative, wacky, and fun the whole time.
I’m grateful this movie was able to capture the essence of play and creation, not only for my own sense of nostalgia, but as an inspiration for children — and adults — to see the wondrous possibilities at their fingertips.
Photo (CC) courtesy of Warner Bros.