Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lego Movie Review

And with the release of The Lego Movie, my long two week break is over! I'm now fully recharged and ready to take what 2014 has to offer! And first up, we have a movie that I've actually been looking forward to, The Lego Movie. Legos have pretty much been around for over 30 years, so chances are you've probably played with Legos at some points in your life. I stopped playing with Legos when I was around 10 or 11, but I still have a soft spot for the little bricks. When this movie was announced, I was optimistic that it was going to be a fun, enjoyable family film that would just be a solid film. As I started to see more trailers though, I started to get a bit skeptical about the audience that the movie was trying to reach, often touting a terrible and wretched song ironically titled "Everything is Awesome" that made me worry that the movie would pander down to the lowest possible audience and be another dumb kids movie. What we get is... interesting to say the least.

The Lego Movie revolves around a Lego man named Emmet, who is completely and utterly ordinary. There's nothing special about him in the slightest. He follows all the rules, he goes to all of the same places as everyone else, he essentially has no identity. He's just another piece in the set. That is until he finds a mysterious artifact called The Piece of Resistance, which attaches to his back, and he's taken on a grand adventure to save the Lego worlds from the evil Lord Business, who wants to separate all of the various Lego playsets and isolate each world. The western world wouldn't interact with the city, and the fantasy world wouldn't interact with the pirate world.

So yeah, it's a simple little concept that I can easily get behind. The story isn't anything to write home about, but what really sells this movie are the characters. Most of the characters in this movie are based off of Lego properties, so you'll be seeing cameos from most Lego products in some shape or form in this movie. Dumbledore and Gandalf have conversations with each other, and most of the Justice League is there as well. Speaking of Justice League, one of the main character sin this movie is actually Batman, though he is played up for laughs much more than his more recent incarnations. The Batman parodied in this movie isn't Adam West style of goofiness, but more Robot Chicken "trying-to-be-serious-but-is-tool-who's-pretty-arrogant-and-works-only-in-black" kind of Batman. Special mentions also go out to Morgan Freeman as a blind wizard named Vetruvius, an anime hyper kitty called the Unikitty, and Will Ferrell as the evil Lord Business.
When in doubt, Batman. As if Lego was worried they
wouldn't get an audience
This is mostly an ensemble movie, and each character plays their part exceptionally well. Truth be told, if it wasn't for the characters, the movie really wouldn't have kept me interested in the story. You've heard this story a thousand times before of an unlikely hero who has great responsibility thrown upon him and he's the only person who can save the world. You've heard this before, and it really isn't done that interesting either. But my God do these characters sell this story. Everyone's just so goofy and aware that this is a movie based on Legos. They're allowed to have some fun with this premise. I mean, there's a part of the movie where Superman is attacked with bubble gum and Lord Business's head quarters is a giant million floor skyscraper over a black hole, I think they're at liberty to have a bit of fun.

Not only that, but the animation is actually relatively impressive as well. It's a combination of stop-motion animation with Legos and standard CG animation, but the two are mixed together perfectly. There's a moment when an entire world is under attack by Lord Business's forces, and seeing every building explode in a blaze of fire and smoke (also done in Lego mind you), is some of the best animation I've seen in an any recent movie, let alone kids movies. Hell, I'd even go so far to say that some points of the movie are better animated than Frozen when Elsa raises her castle. It's that good.

However, it also contrasts with some legitimately bad animation as well. I can't put my finger on why, but there were some parts of the movie that just looked lazy or off kilter. Water in this movie either looks fine, with two little Lego bits to show water in a glass, or a giant ocean, which looks choppy and unnatural to the point where it looks a bit like the movie is lagging. Also when the movie gets up close with some characters, the stop motion doesn't look completely smooth and you can tell that it's choppy. Bottom line, the animation can look really nice and breathtaking with a great mix between the stop-motion and CG, but can also look really choppy and sloppy.

Unikitty is like a rage suppressed Pinkie Pie and I love it. 
And... that's really it. At first, I was set on this being just an alright kids movie. It doesn't really do anything I haven't seen before, and up until the climax I was just okay with it. The characters were a lot of fun, but the plot didn't really wow me. It was just alright. That is until the last third of the movie where The Lego Movie goes from just a simple kids movie to a poignant movie on the nature of toys and just being a kid and having fun. I will not spoil this twist at all, because while the movie does drop a few hints as to the nature behind everything, the audience most likely won't be able to see just what this movie really has in store. My jaw dropped when the movie brought on its big twist, and everything made perfect sense.

The Lego Movie now, to me at least, is a movie about just having fun and that toys are exactly what they're meant to be. Toys are meant to be things to be played with and shouldn't be viewed as anything but. When you take the fun out of something that's meant to be played with, you're robbing the toys of what they're meant to be. And if you try deny that sense of fun to anyone else, then no one benefits. You're left with toys that no one can play with and are just there for what? It's like having a teddy bear that you leave on a shelf that no one can hold. Teddy bears are meant to be held by people and be soft and comforting. Or it's like having a video game that you don't play; it's just meant to be on a shelf to serve as a collectible and for you to say "Yeah I have it. I don't play with it, but I have it." What the point of a game if you can't play it?

The last half an hour of The Lego Movie turned an average kids movie into something so much more. While I don't know whether its message will get across, it'll stay with me as a moment that redefined a movie and completely upended it. This movie is a movie for everyone that's ever had a toy that they cared about and want to rekindle that idea of being a kid again. While its message can't justify the weaker aspects of the movie, it's still a fine movie that anyone can go to and enjoy. That's why I give The Lego Movie a well deserved 4 out of 5.

I'm going to go play with my little Digimon figurines, because it's been years since I've played with them.

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