By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org| @thewillofash
The Lego Movie | Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller | Rated PG
With Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the TV series Clone High, Miller and Lord demonstrated their talents at creating silly, but energetic and deeply inspired, entertainment that oozes creativity and passion. While their energy is affective in 21 Jump Street, it is within animation that they are truly able to let loose their imagination and unique sense of timing and pacing.
However, while they have yet to make a misstep in their careers, they still haven’t quite made their own great film. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is certainly amusing, and even surprisingly heartfelt, but it also suffers from an occasional tiresomeness that comes from their still-growing sensibilities, especially if viewers are not used to Lord and Miller’s joke-a-minute style of comedy.
Equally, while filled with clever writing and some strong chemistry from its leads, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street also carries a general hit-or-miss sensibility throughout the film that also suffers from some overly juvenile raunchy comedy.
Alas, though, with their third feature film, The Lego Movie, they have finally turn things around for the better. With a seemingly endless stride of humor, imagination, heart and passion, Lord and Miller’s newest effort is not only the first great movie on their resume, it’s the first great movie of 2014.
The film centers on Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) a rather plain construction builder who, by accident, discovers the Piece of Resistance, a long-lost archive that is said to bring peace and order back to their world. But, once the piece gets stuck to Emmet, quite literally, he is forced to fight forces with Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), an evil tyrant who desires the powers the Piece holds. But, through the help of Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), and some others, he will live out his prophecy of being the MasterBuilder.
What makes The Lego Movie so good is that it lives up to its infinite potential. Lord and Miller have a lot of toys that they can play with (literally), and they, thankfully, make great use of them. Legos like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and other surprises make their way into the film in satisfying and engaging ways, and offer even more potential for what can be done in the inevitable sequels to come.
On that note, while based, mainly, on already established properties, the world-building found within the film is equally impressive. There is a grandness to this film that other films often try to find, but very few are actually able to accomplish. It not only adds to the spectacle and wonder, if gives so much room for what should—hopefully—come in the next installment(s).
Also, thanks to their script, which is genuinely one of the most clever and witty scripts that I have seen in the past couple years, the film is able to explore the grand potential that not only the characters have, but the different lands bring. But what truly makes The Lego Movie special is its underlining heart.
Beyond the buoyant energy and infectious charm that Lord and Miller bring to all their properties thus far, there is also a great deal of profound and, dare I say it, thought-provoking commentary the film brings in an unexpected third act twist. It’s clear throughout that the film has more up its sleeve than it initially presents, but I doubt many unspoiled audience members are going to expect just how deep this film’s themes are about childhood, dreams and human potential. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that is the point of the movie where it truly becomes a wonderful film.
In addition to these guys’ efforts, though, Pratt also brings a lot of heart and energy into his performance, and helps drive home the film’s heartstrings as the film progresses. Also doing some impressive work here is Ferrell, who’s given one of his funniest new characters in some time, while also….well, I actually won’t go further than that for now.
But, undoubtedly, the best aspect of The Lego Movie is its animation, which is honestly some of the best I have ever seen. Thankfully, Lord and Miller are always aware of what their property is, and its humorous limitations and quirks. They make good use—humor-wise and even, sometimes, plot wise—with the Lego anatomy and construction style, and don’t try to push the envelope of possibility too thin, like the Lego video games have tended to do.
Through its stop-motion inspired style (the film is made primarily in CGI, but there are some stop motion segments inside), the film is able to make some genuinely hilarious visual gags and references. I’m sure there are at least 10 that I missed on my first viewing, and won’t even catch until my second or third viewing, if then. Not that I am complaining about seeing this movie again.
Also, the film actually makes some pretty good use of its 3-D, and is worth throwing out a few extra dollars to check it out.
The Lego Movie is not flawless, though. For its joke-a-minute style, as expected, there are at least 10 or so jokes throughout that just fall flat. But that is expected, and, thankfully, there are more than enough jokes throughout to make up for any that don’t work.
There are some who are claiming that The Lego Movie is as good as Toy Story. While I can’t quite reach that level of enthusiasm, there is no denying that it is a deeply humorous and surprisingly deep and profound film that features terrific writing, strong voice acting, and some of the best animation I have seen in years. It is because of this that it becomes not only the best animated movie of the year, but one of the best animated movies I have seen in years.
It’s also one of those few movies that, yes, kids and adults are going to enjoy equally. It’s truthfully one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in the past couple months, and maybe see this year, no matter what the rating is.
Now, if only I could get “Everything is Awesome” out of my head.