The Lego Movie (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
27Jun/140

The Lego Movie (2014)

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons above, or join the Twitch stream here!

Building blocks, ancient prophesies, a lot of heart, and Batman combine forces for The Lego Movie.  Plucky Emmet hopes that by following instructions and keeping his spirits up he'll become the toast of the town.  But a chance encounter with a mythical brick puts him in the middle of an epic battle between good and evil.  The Lego Movie features the voices of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks, and is directed by the comedy team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

The happiest of daysPhil Lord and Christopher Miller have become the go-to directing duo for making cinematic adaptations of material that could smell purely of a cash-in, but has a heart.  Their modus operandi really hasn't changed since their days on television with Clone High.  They take an absurd situation, dab on a single layer of meta-commentary acknowledging how silly it all is, then run the scenario through a script that throws as many jokes as possible, and top it all off with just a whiff of sentimentality for the material that they're adapting.

I don't think they have it in them to make a poor film quite yet, but if The Lego Movie is any indication, their formula can run out of steam and produce a boring one.  All the ingredients of their earlier successes are here.  You've got the *wink wink* real world of the Lego people mixed with boundless enthusiasm for creation and the limitless potential for rapid-fire pop culture gags.  The heart reveals itself a little later than their other works, but when it comes in such a way that completely fits with the universe and all that came before.

This should combine to a successful product, but The Lego Movie has the same problem that 22 Jump Street does.  With the room to breathe with a budget larger than their old animation crew used to have, they can let loose with their imaginations.  That seems perfect for The Lego Movie, but it relies heavily on chases and plastic fire explosions that wear out their welcome quickly.  There are at least half a dozen separate chase sequences in The Lego Movie that all pan out to the same spattering of multicolored Lego pieces and hurried commentary from the heroes and villains.

Moments of construction and fun are the highlights of a film that settles on knocking it all down once too often.

Moments of construction and fun are the highlights of a film that settles on knocking it all down once too often.

The framing device for The Lego Movie makes perfect sense with this, but is also why multi-million dollar productions aren't handed over to kids to film whatever they come up with.  Since roughly half the film is packed with these action scenes I grew weary of watching the same spatter in an area with a palette-swap.  The heart of Lord and Miller's films usually makes up for any shortcomings in the comedy, like when they push the bromance trope to its logical breaking point in 22 Jump Street.

But the heart of The Lego Movie goes for the old standby of believing in yourself while engaging in some of the crass commercialization that made Toy Story 3 fail.  Multiple scenes with variations of that self-actualizing philosophy come and go but don't find anything fun to do with the cliché.  Their other films find a way around this hurdle with their characters, but when the principal's sole motivation is to stop being bland it doesn't have anywhere to go.  So The Lego Movie almost fails by cycling between its bad action and overdone character work.

The spritely Good Cop, Yin to Bad Cop's Yang, is one of the moments of sustained joyful brilliance in The Lego Movie - inhabiting both characters in one body and giving Liam Neeson his best role since The Grey.

The spritely Good Cop, Yin to Bad Cop's Yang, is one of the moments of sustained joyful brilliance in The Lego Movie - inhabiting both characters in one body and giving Liam Neeson his best role since The Grey.

What keeps The Lego Movie from being a complete bore is when the film slows down and Lord and Miller's affection for its pop culture takes over.  The running gag with the generic '80s space guy is a perfect example of this.  Whenever they're facing a problem his unflappable optimistic solution is to build a spaceship, no matter how impractical.  It also leads to some adorable moments, like when Morgan Freeman's God-like Lego returns to give some advice to the hero, and is introduced via a low-tech method that enthusiastic proponents of "so bad its wonderful" special effects will have a ball over it.

The technical aspects of the film are mostly without fault.  I loved the look of each Lego world but got tired of seeing them broken apart just as quickly as they are introduced.  The cast is uniformly excellent, with Liam Neeson taking the top prize by finally revealing the long-hidden soft side to his omnipresent grumbling action persona.  Then there's "Everything Is Awesome", which provides a tidy summary of the film's problems by being an attempted satire of soulless pop music, yet being just as simplistic as anything The Black Eyed Peas have produced.

If The Lego Movie doesn't work, at least it's an ambitious fumble.  All you need to do is look at the open contempt that Michael Bay treats the audience of Transformers with to see just how much of a disaster adaptations of toys can be.  At least with The Lego Movie you don't run the risk of developing Stockholm syndrome.

If you enjoy my writing or podcast work, please consider becoming a monthly Patron or sending a one-time contribution! Every bit helps keep Can't Stop the Movies running and moving toward making it my day job.

Tail - The Lego MovieThe Lego Movie (2014)

Screenplay written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Ferrell.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.


Leave Your Thoughts!

Trackbacks are disabled.