At first I thought The Lego Movie was going to be like the Lego series of video games where you’re basically watching characters from Star Wars or Harry Potter re-enact their adventures using simulated Lego pieces and minifigs instead of their normal selves and environments. The Lego Movie definitely has a big action-adventure storyline where its hero, Emmett (voiced by Parks and Recreation‘s Chris Pratt) an average construction worker, tries to save the world with the help of a rag-tag band of new friends. Nevertheless, there’s an added self-referential tone and tongue-in-cheek humour (one of my favourite examples being when the arch-villain asks to be handed the “Blade of Exact Zero” (it’s an X-acto knife blade), which is just how a kid would mispronounce something in his head when adding it to his imaginary story) that makes it clear that the filmmakers are also simulating what it is like (was like for them) to play with Lego.
Emmett is a specifically average Lego guy who goes through life following instructions (literally). One of the gags is how the Lego people actually follow those step-by-step instructions that come with Lego kits for everything from how to live (they all greet each other in the mornings because that’s what it says in the instructions) to how to construct a building (where the foremen flip through a giant set of Lego instructions on site rather than blueprints). Of course, as usual, the hero’s routine life is shattered when he forgets something and returns to the site after hours. He encounters a hooded girl digging for something, but before you can say “suspicious” he is mesmerized by her looks (she has a rebellious stripe of pink in her hair) and there’s a hilarious spoof of the slow-motion hair-toss where her plastic hair kind of swivels around on her head. The girl is Wildstyle and Emmett is quickly wrapped up in her quest for the Piece of Resistance — a relic that can help save the world from the villainous President Business (I know, aren’t these great kid-made-up names?!). There is a relatively complex plot involving “master builders” (a special breed of Lego minifig with the ability to create and build items from the Lego bricks of their world) and a prophecy involving “The Special” (a messianic person who will save them all from any villainy).
Obviously this film is as much spoof as it is fun-adventure. I think there is a lot of humour that the younger kids won’t really get. It’s the Adult-Swim kind of humour where Lego Green Lantern is a wannabe and Lego Batman is repeatedly trying to escape his attention. I found myself laughing out loud in a number of spots throughout the movie (with only a couple of others). I loved the 80s Lego spaceman character (largely because I loved those space Lego kits as a kid) and how he would always want to build spaceships (in a kind of stop-motion, “the ship is building itself” kind of way that was popular on the commercials at the time). Even though he was a bit manic, I really liked him and could almost identify with him (yes, I am talking about identifying with a little Lego spaceman). Suffice it to say there is humour enough to go around. The kids will, as I said, enjoy the day-glow Lego action which is amazingly rendered. I assume it’s all CGI, but it looks a lot like actual physical Lego pieces were filmed in stop-motion. The adventure is pretty much non-stop (though not really memorable to me — I literally have forgotten chunks of the plot already).
As clever, imaginative, and heart-warming as this movie is, I am a bit surprised at the accolades and high reviews that the movie is receiving (higher than a few Oscar nominees). Just like Wreck-it Ralph before it, the joy of The Lego Movie is fuelled in large part by nostalgia at seeing mementos of one’s childhood. Cynics might even consider it one big long commercial (this aspect was brought home to me by the advertisements that ran before the movie, promoting other competing brands of Lego-like blocks on the market). All things considered, I think the movie is just really fun and a testament to how Lego really did provide building blocks for the imaginations of generations of children (Uh-oh, now I’m sounding like a commercial!). (4 out of 5)