The Lego Movie initially looks like an enormous toy advert and although that is true, don’t let that put you off. It’s packed with great gags and a solid story line that culminates in one of the most excellent closing 15minutes to a film that I’ve seen in a long time.
The Lego Movie tells the story of an ordinary Lego construction worker, Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), who merrily goes about his life building according to instructions until one day he meets Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a tough tech-savvy “Master Builder”, searching for something on his construction site—The Piece of Resistance. After this, his life becomes extra-ordinary as he joins the Master Builders in their fight against Lord Business (Will Ferrell), the evil tyrant of Bricksburg, who is attempting to stamp out creativity.
The animation in The Lego Movie is incredible. I spent several moments during the movie trying to work out whether it was genuinely stop motion animation or just CGI designed to look like stop motion. It turns out that it’s a clever and seamless combination of the two. How much of it is one or the other, however, is near impossible to tell.
Much like some of the best loved “kids’” movies and TV shows like The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants and especially Aardman films, there’s a lot of jokes that will go straight over the heads of children in the audience but teenagers and adults will enjoy, especially those that grew up with Lego but not exclusively so. The comedy is fairly Aardman in style—silly humour, clever puns and always something going on in the background. You feel like you’re only getting about 50% of the jokes first time around.
The film plays to all audiences and cleverly addresses the different generations of Lego. Younger fans will enjoy seeing Batman, Gandalf, Dumbledore and the Star Wars gang while slightly older Lego fans will appreciate the more subtle jokes such as the design of Benny (aka 1980-something space guy); the bottom half of his helmet is cracked, a common injury that this figure sustained. For the most part though, the humour is universal so if you’ve never played with Lego in your life, you’ll enjoy the film as long as you get some of the basic ideas about it. 1. They’re blocks that click together to build things, 2. They have evolved from being just basic blocks to now encompassing Hollywood movie themes, and 3. There are two basic approaches to Lego: those that build according to instructions to make specific pre-designed models and those that just make whatever their imagination lets them.
The Lego Movie has an impressive cast. As well as the main cast of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson, the film has managed to get some famous stars to do very small parts in the film. Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams reprise their original Star Wars roles as C3PO and Lando Calrissian. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill voice Superman and Green Lantern (understandable given that the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, also directed 21 Jump Street.) There are a host of other stars that have just one or two lines: Cobie Smulders, Shaquille O’Neal, Will Forte, Dave Franco and many more.
Fox Business TV claimed last week that the film is “anti-capitalism” and “pushing its anti-business message to our kids”. One can understand why, upon first inspection, they would assume this. The villain is called Lord/President Business, consumer culture is mocked when the inhabitants of Bricksburg drink coffee at $37 a cup, the anthem of the city is the Brave New World-esque “Everything is Awesome” (which you’ll be singing for weeks, by the way), and our protagonist, Emmet, is the archetypal proletariat hero.
Ayn Rand worshipers need not worry, however – there is also a legitimate interpretation that the film is anti-communism. Our heroes fight for creativity and freedom against uniformity, state control of media, government instruction and control of all industry. The reason both interpretations are possible is that the film is about neither. How could this film be anti-capitalist when it’s a giant advert for a toy that’s valued at $14.6 billion and produced by a major studio that, deservedly, took $67million dollars in its opening weekend?