REVIEW: The Lego Movie

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The Lego Movie
Directed by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Written by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (screenplay & story), Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman (story)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman

The two things that The Lego Movie most immediately recalls are the South Park “Imaginationland” episodes and Team America: World Police, biting pop cultural critiques from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The Lego Movie is, obviously, much more toned down and targeted at children (there is no MPAA trolling “sex” scene like the marionette one in Team America).  What exactly the movie seems to be satirizing becomes a bit watered down by the hypocrisy of its own design.

It starts off in a Lego world that George Orwell or Ray Bradbury may have built, where the inhabitants all follow the instruction manuals or risk being melted by President Business (Will Ferrell).  The Lego Movie is not (and cannot) be totally anti-business, though.  President Business eventually becomes Lord Business who eventually becomes (spoiler) a micromanaging dad in the human world telling his kid not to mess with immaculately constructed (and unimaginative) Lego buildings.  The movie is designed to show how much fun a dad and son can have with (spoiler) Legos!  The movie is more pro-child imagination, though I’m sure all Legos made after this movie will still come with instructions.

Putting the meta-advertising bit aside, though, this is a very fun, creatively constructed and endearingly positive movie.  The varied Lego worlds, from the Old West to the high seas and many more, give co-directors/co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller a bountiful visual landscape to play with.  Much of the action revolves around an everyday, unextraordinary construction worker named Emmett (Chris Pratt) venturing into those worlds.

Emmett becomes the center of a prophecy where he will save the Lego universe from Lord Business with the help of a vast pop cultural universe (Batman at one point hops into the Millennium Falcon, and Dumbledore and Gandalf get mistaken for each other).  There are also many recognizable voices, from Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson to Jonah Hill and Will Arnett.  Many of them knowingly play character types that made them famous.

Lord and Miller thankfully don’t just bombard the story with references and call it good.   Their clever deployment of these famous fictional heroes is easily topped by their endless acts of creation.  In other words, they really, really enjoy building things with Legos. Their movie is less about its very self-aware story than about creating the world that millions of kids create in their heads when they play with toys or build things with Legos (or K’Nex).

Grade: B-

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