Cinema-Maniac: The LEGO Movie (2014) Review

This film is very difficult for me to write about. Disregard the rating for a moment and try to imagine having my same thoughts on the current state of American animation. It lacks diversity in what is visually possible mostly saturated with bright colors, filled cultural references, and limited scope that rarely goes into any mature territory. There are a couple exception to the rule like “Monster Univeristy” that say it’s okay to fail and “Up” on moving forward from the death of your significant other, but those deviation to broaden up the industry scope are far and very few in between. Now comes along “Frozen”, a film that reinforces imagination is no longer a thing and the same tire tricks are acceptable. You strongly feel the success of that film will have a negative impact as American animation studios will be less willing to take risks with complex material. What does of any this has to do with “The Lego Movie”? Well “The Lego Movie” pretty much defeated a saying that stuck with me during a writing class I had in college. Basically the saying goes like this. “Let go of yourself. Free your mindset. It’s okay to remove to copy and paste. I’ll do it my way, you do it your way. Don’t follow what’s left. Follow the right way”. Even though “The LEGO Movie” uses an established framework of colorful visuals, pop culture references, and limited scope it is the same film that is hilarious, intelligent, and a highly inventive deconstruction on cliches.

The LEGO Movie is about an ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied ‘Special’, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis. Following a set of instructions “The LEGO Movie” has a framework that is not by the stretch of anyone’s imagination new. Starting with a prophecy-filled opening, an ordinary everyday person being the chosen one who rises to the occasion, the generic doomsday villain who wants to destroy the world, the action girlfriend with a jerky romantic false lead, the old mentor archetype who’s the only one with any faith in the hero, and the cliche list goes on. Yet they are meant to be overly familiar in order to lampoon every single one its tropes and cliches for it base of humor. Every familiar plot point feels fresh thanks to its self aware referential humor. Doing wonders for tired jokes (such as the “can’t get any worse”, situation immediately gets worse) that would have otherwise left viewers silent, but works due to timing and the setups for it to tell jokes. The characters are the pretty much the essential basic team assembly line; the leader (Emmet), the chick (Wyldstyle), the lancer (Batman), the big guy (Metal Beard), plucky comedy relief (Beeny), and you could figured out the remaining four on your own cinephiles. As basic as these characters sound on paper the exploration to its central theme goes a step above than what was expected. It acknowledges how painfully difficult it is to actually try to be normal, and the amount of work it takes to follow perceived societal instructions that limit one’s personality.

The animation is impressive combining a blend between CGI, claymation, and Lego. The figures all look sleek and polished, yet the movement still has the feel of actual Lego bricks. It’s a decision that feels both retro and refreshingly new. Such as the way that fire and explosions are created using tiny red, black and grey Lego bricks. Characters not connected to the floor are suspended using strings. Character motion is restricted, with facial expressions varying wildly. In short, the movie looks almost as if it were hand-animated by Lego enthusiasts themselves. This gives the film an agreeably home-made look that adds real warmth. Chris Pratt leads the pack as Emmett, delivering an energetic, and enthusiastic performance portraying the poor naivety of the Lego piece. Elizabeth Banks makes for a delightful Wyldstyle, brings charisma and good timing when playing off her costars. Morgan Freeman, almost spoofing his numerous wise mentor roles, is enjoyable as Vitruvius, and Will Ferrell makes for a delightfully over-the-top villain. Liam Neeson plays Good Cop Bad Cop, a police officer with a case of multiple personalities allowing him to play both sides of the traditional Good Cop Bad Cop routine from a unique angle. Neeson did a great job creating two unique voices that effectively embody the stereotype in an amusing way. Not to forget the delightful cameos made by Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Dave Franco, Shaquille O’Neal, and Billy Dee Williams.

The LEGO Movie is awesome. Anyone who ever seen movies can easily spot every plot device ever used, but by presenting them with self referential humor anything old feels fresh and fun again. Taking a quote by Walt Disney, “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyways”. Those words best apply to this film with a desire to become something great not just a product for a specific group. For that reason The LEGO Movie is made with the audience in mind with varied humor to keep audience laughing and contains a story that’s engaging tackling freedom versus control. I dare say it’s the best thing to happen to animation since the original Toy Story.

10/10

Thoughts on the final act:

I’m pretty sure none of my readers want to know my thoughts on the final act Izanagi. They know I’ve seen a lot of movies and spotting narrative devices is kinda my thing. Yes reiterating is also my thing I guess, but that’s beside the point. So when I got to the final act everything came full circle. That final act cemented it designated theme of freedom versus control like it should have. It deliver everything you exactly expected for two acts in terms of jokes, characters, and story elements. Then in the final act creativity shines through that took a bold risk in its usage archetypes, proving old jokes can still be funny, and having more meaning behind it story. If it had not taken the direction it did in the final act it would gone against its own principles both in themes and in the way the characters live. No Izanagi for the last time I gave you chart on why it didn’t work for that other film. Izanagi if you bring that movie up one more time I’ll call Raidou Kuzunoha to you put in your place. There’s other creations I can bring up to use as a gimmick whenever I’m talking to myself. Okay that’s good hear. Because without you Izanagi my delivery paragraphs like these would be straightforward which to be honest a semi creative deviation is good every now and then.

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