Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.
I am a pop culture geek, and never more so when it comes to animations that take great pleasure in drawing references to the things that I, and many others who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, remember with a particular nostalgia.
It was with a level of trepidation then that I booked in tickets for The Lego Movie. Even though I had seen numerous accolades from people I trust deeply to act as a barometer of both the quality and humour of a movie, I worried that so many of the hilarious references from the trailer would be in the first act after which it would default to a by the numbers kids movie. After all, Wreck It Ralph (2013) had promised so much pop culture animated goodness before running out of steam after the first act. Leaving me feeling short changed after being promised so much. The Lego movie by contrast goes from strength to strength over its 100 minute running time, never stopping for breath or allowing it’s audience to do the same. It is, in it’s purest form, a bonkers, sonic paced celebration of creativity and chaos wrapped in a thousand punchlines.
The most notable thing about the script is an evidently conscious decision by the writer director team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the same team behind the fantastic Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and almost as brilliant 21 Jump Street) to pitch this as a film that plays to kids and adults alike from the opening scene to the closing credits. Narrative is secondary to action and comedy, but it works to a tee. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is a happy go lucky Lego guy living in his happy Lego world where everyone has a purpose and follows the hallowed instruction manuals that tell them how to go about every facet of their daily lives. Emmet isn’t special, in fact he is entirely average, but he couldn’t be happier with it. When evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who runs the Lego world steals hallowed treasure and weapon of mass destruction The Kragle from wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) Emmet inadvertently finds himself drawn in to a quest to save his fellow Lego citizens from being frozen in time. With the help of Lego Batman (Will Arnett), Lego 80’s Space Guy Benny (Charlie Day) a mishmash robo-pirate (Nick Offerman) and free spirited Wyldestyle (Lizzy Banks) they must travel across the Lego Universe all the while being pursued by the schizophrenic Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson).
The Lego universe that exists for purchase in toy shops across the globe is as vast and diverse as the one Miller and Lord recreate so lovingly on screen. They make use of every brick and node to bring to life an almost psychodelic living version of the towns, cities and right angled landscapes that adorn homes across the globe. Miller and Lord’s script and direction covers any plot holes or wonky narrative with so many jokes, visual gags and references that it’s like being shouted at by a room full of nerdy comedians. At no time does it feel like the script is paying lip service to it’s adult audience by putting in the obligatory amount of the-kids-wont-get-this-but-you-will jokes. Rather the script reflects that more than nearly any other toy Lego is still enjoyed by parents and kids alike without stigma. The jokes about Star Wars, the passive aggressive relationship dynamic between Wyldstyle and Batman, references to extremely expensive coffee and ultimately the relationship that makes up the thrust of the third act are written by adults nerds with kids for adult nerds with kids. Even when it moved into the final scenes where saccharine schmultz could have tarnished it’s near perfect execution to that point, it played out with a genuine pathos that will leave a lot of dads hugging their sons a little harder.
It also rattles along at a breathtaking pace. In fact the opening scene started with such vigor that I thought the projectionist in my local multiplex cinema had screwed up and started halfway through. From that moment on it never slows right until the last pitch perfect joke. In The Lego Movie Lord and Miller have turned what could have been an annoying and cynical 90 minute product placement into an instant cartoon classic that should be spoken of in the same breath as Toy Story, Nemo and Monsters Inc. It is, I hope, the start of a wonderful franchise for a whole new generation of kids and parents alike.
Conclusion: Brilliant, original, self referential and seeringly funny. If I laugh more at a film in 2014 I’ll be a Lego Monkey’s uncle.
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum