The Lego Movie
I’d been looking forward to seeing The Lego Movie, since I expected it to be fun and funny, based on this trailer. Plus, it has silly Batman!
I got the humor I was looking for, but I was surprised to find that the movie is aimed more directly at kids than I expected. It’s available on home video this coming Tuesday.
In the film, Lord Business, later President Business (Will Ferrell) defeats a prophet (Morgan Freeman) to steal the magic Kragle, but the ruler is left with the promise that someday someone special will find the missing “piece of resistance” and overcome him. Emmet, a construction worker (Chris Pratt), turns out to be the prophesied one, although Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a hacker vigilante type who rescues him, wonders whether that’s true, since Emmet is more concerned with fitting in than being creative or extraordinary. He doesn’t know how to think for himself, only wanting instructions.
I wasn’t that involved with the plot, although there is a surprising ending with a good message, but I loved watching the Lego-based settings and backgrounds. There are a ton of surprising and talented celebrity voices, too, from Liam Neeson as Bad Cop and Will Arnett as bad-boyfriend Batman to Charlie Day as the older spaceman figure and Alison Brie as the oddly cheerful Unikitty. I’m also impressed by the performances they give little plastic figures via computer.
The first time through, it’s entertaining just seeing which Lego minifigure will show up next. The cityscapes are amazing, and there are tons of gags. Some of it is weirdly strange yet humorous, as when the Lego boy bends backwards at his leg joints, reminding us of the unique physics of this environment. Sometimes it’s just silly fun, as when Wyldstyle clocks Emmet with a cactus.
It can seem difficult to capture fluid movement in an innately blocky medium, particularly with the action-movie-style explosions. My favorite was the water, which is made of little translucent blue circles, although it makes showering look painful.
The film is definitely a kids’ movie, with obvious plot developments. (I don’t understand why this movie got a PG for “mild action and rude humor”. I would give it a G.) Adults won’t be bored, but during some scenes, on a lazy weekend afternoon, we found our eyes closing a bit. Then another funny joke or reference would come along, and we’d be back.
There are enough extras that I recommend not watching them all at once, for fear of overdosing on all things Lego. The commentary track features the two directors/screenwriters, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and voice actors Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Will Arnett, and Charlie Day. If you can stand hearing the song one more time — I had it stuck in my head for hours — there’s an “Everything Is Awesome” sing-along. I found it visually overwhelming, but its frenzy goes along with the tone of the movie and music.
“Bringing Lego to Life” is a 12-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes hosted by Emmet, so it’s not heavily information-packed, although you do get to see some of the crew and cast. They pretend that Emmet is a real person, so you’ve got to have patience for that. (Again, aimed at kids.) Footage of a trip to Legoland in Denmark, plus a Lego factory, is included.
“See It, Build It!” has six chapters, half of which show how to build items from the film in real Lego, the other half of which show how they were designed for the movie using Lego digital designer software. “Stories From the Story Team” covers the movie’s storyboards. There are also some fan-made movies (introduced by Pratt), two-and-a-half minutes of created outtakes, an animation test, storyboards for two deleted scenes, and some additional promo material.
I have no idea how to describe the remaining extras. I would love to know where these came from and why they exist, but no luck. They’re three short Lego movies:
* “Batman’s a True Artist”, a minute of the character set to his “dark, brooding” song from the movie
* “Michelangelo and Lincoln: History Cops”, a buddy cop film ad
* “Enter the Ninjago”, where a movie guy tells Emmet that his life (as shown in the film) isn’t interesting enough, so they’re going to put in skateboarding ninjas
The movie’s message about playing and creativity, regardless of what you’re “supposed” to do, is great. It’s also against overly precious adult Lego fans, but some of the folks who made the movie are clearly obsessive about the toy. I guess you’d have to be to put all the bonuses and memories into the film. I recommend sticking with the movie itself; the emphasis of the extras on “here’s all this other Lego stuff: software, other movies, theme parks” can be overwhelming. (The studio provided a review copy.)