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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one
 

Watching “The LEGO Movie”

By Sara Foss
Thursday, February 27, 2014

“The LEGO Movie” is just as much fun as you’ve heard. It has you grinning from its opening moments until its closing credits. It takes a dubious premise, and somehow manages to spin it into gold. It is fun, fun, fun — one of the most fun blockbusters I’ve been to in a long time.

This film could have been terrible. It could have been an extended LEGO commercial, and nothing more. But in the capable hands of co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (whose previously film, “21 Jump Street,” was also way better than anyone had a right to expect), “The LEGO Movie” becomes a witty, visually astonishing, occasionally subversive delight. At times it plays like “The Matrix” for kids. At other times, it reminded me of the Mike Judge comedy “Idiocracy” and the Pixar film “The Incredibles.” But it never feels like it’s ripping off those earlier films.

“The LEGO Movie” is something rare: a unique cinematic experience. Of course, it would be hard for me not to love a film in which the villain unleashes his minions with the cry “Cue the micromanagers!” and the 2002 NBA all-stars make a cameo appearance.

The film opens in a world where individuality is discouraged, and conformity is all the rage. Our protagonist, a cheerful, bland LEGO construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt), always follows the instructions; part of his job entails knocking down buildings that are too weird or different. We learn that the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) frowns upon creativity and innovation, and that he plans to destroy the world in three days with a sinister weapon known as the Kragle.

When Emmet stumbles upon a mysterious red block known as the Piece of Resistance, the good wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman, spoofing his screen reputation for wisdom and sagacity) and attractive female revolutionary Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) are convinced that he is The Special — the LEGO character destined to stop the Kragle. Emmet, of course, appears to be anything but special, possessing little, it seems, in the way of skills or imagination. And when the master builders seeking to defeat Lord Business assemble, Emmet seems like a poor choice to lead them: The master builders include such luminaries as Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Gandalf, Batman and Superman.

What ensues is a wildly entertaining series of chases, gags, jokes and surprisingly smart messages about the importance of teamwork, creativity and following the beat of your own drummer.

Kids will appreciate the story, bright colors and breakneck action, while adults will appreciate the sly pop culture references, such as the brief cameo made by the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo, C-3PO, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian (voiced by Billy Dee Williams himself), and barbed critiques of contemporary society. Yes, a movie based on a highly successful brand of toys takes shots at the surveillance state, corporate culture and consumerism. It also contains an insanely catchy theme song, “Everything is Awesome!!!” that really is awesome, because it was produced by Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh and performed by folk-synth-pop duo Tegan and Sara in collaboration with the musical comedy group The Lonely Island.

Toward the end, I felt that “The LEGO Movie” began to lay its inspirational messages on a little too thick and that it was starting to become exhausting. Like most animated films produced in America, it never slows down, zipping from one set piece to another, and allows very little time for reflection or mystery. But these are minor complaints.

“The LEGO Movie” is a blast, full of surprises, captivating animation and cheerful, upbeat energy. As movies go, it’s like an antidote to the doldrums of winter. If you’re feeling blue, it is almost certain to cheer you up.

Got a comment? Email me at sfoss@dailygazette.net.

 
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