I feel kind of embarrassed to admit that after being bombarded with ads in theaters and on TV that I found myself wanting to go see ‘The Lego Movie.” It was the worst kind of sugar-frosted, kung-fu action grip, Super Saturday fever binge induced “I want that” to get pushed into my consciousness. Yeah, I will say this, I felt kind of wrong and a little bit dirty to find myself saying “I want to see that movie.”
It wasn’t like they were hiding what they were doing. The didn’t even try to do something clever with the title. Nope, it was just called “The Lego Movie”, without even some kind of subtitle to make it sound less like a glorified movie-length commercial for a set of building blocks. Then I saw the Batman jokes. The trailer shows the Batplane getting blown up and mere instants later Wonder Woman’s invisible plane taken out the same way. That was the point at which I decided maybe I needed to go and see this movie.
The story follows Emmet, an ordinary construction worker figure who just wants to fit in. He gets up every morning and follows his instructions so he’ll be successful and happy. Unfortunately, Emmet has found that no matter how well he follows those instructions, he’s still lonely and doesn’t really seem to have anyone that he loves in his life. Then, one night after work, Emmet encounters a beautiful woman. He follows her and soon finds himself as the unlikely hero trying to save the world from a superweapon.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going into “The Lego Movie”. There were very few expectations on my part, probably because I really thought I was going to be disappointed. After all, this was a movie wholly based on Legos and it didn’t seem to be trying to pretend otherwise. Happily, I left the movie feeling pretty good.
First of all, the animation style is beautifully done. Even though it’s CGI, it looks like every frame was painstakingly crafted in Lego and shot in stop-motion. The people, the vehicles, the water, even the flames and lasers all look exactly like they would if they’d come straight from the Lego factory. That’s no small feat. It’s not a particularly elegant animation style, but it’s absolutely perfect for what it is. These are toys brought to life to have a grand adventure. Despite the relative size of an average Lego, the story and the voiceover artists have made them large enough to occupy a whole movie without feeling forced. Yes, I was completely geeking out over seeing Lego-style explosions and fire. It was a little bit absurd and kind of funny, but it was done in the best way possible.
There are some real comedy gems in the movie, too. Batman is very un-Batman like, since his competency is almost always in question. He’s also unrelentingly serious and has a side gig writing brooding music. The audience gets an example of that music in the hilarious “Untitled Self Portrait”, a heavy metal-tinged growling opus of darkness worthy of this Batman “The Lego Movie” has given us. My friends and I will be not only laughing about it, we’ll be singing it at each other for days.
There are some surprising voice cameos in the movie, too. Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams all have characters show up. They’re as recognizable as they are welcome.
Of course, with a vocal cast that includes Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, and Will Ferrell, you’re going to have to make sure that anyone else will be able to hold their own. The casting directors did some great work there.
Liam Neeson does a fantastic job as the Good Cop/Bad Cop character. He snarls his way through his bad guy lines and gently lilts his good guy lines. The change in tone of his delivery is really the distinguishing factor in his performance. His voice is very much exactly what you imagine when you think of Liam Neeson doing voiceover.
Chris Pratt voices Emmet. He makes Emmet sound exactly like the everyman he’s supposed to be. There’s no discernible regional accent. He has no problems making Emmet sound excited or sad or hopeful. It’s more than serviceable voice acting, it’s good delivery and emoting throughout the performance. Up until “The Lego Movie”, I haven’t really seen much that Pratt has been in. After hearing him in this, I’ll probably be paying more attention to movies that he’s in.
I honestly can’t help but think that Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius), Will Arnett (Batman), and Will Farrell (President/Lord Business) had a blast recording their roles. The story is a whole lot of fun and it sounds like there’s this barely restrained sense of deep amusement behind all of the dialog. They’re giving lines that sound like the things people have wanted to yell at movie screens for years because characters are doing stupid things. It’s got to feel good, at least on some level. Then too, there’s Channing Tatum voicing Superman and Jonah Hill as Green Lantern. The way that those two characters play off each other is as hysterical as it is a little bit sad.
The bottom line is, “The Lego Movie” isn’t just a movie for Lego aficionados. There’s a huge amount of stuff packed into this movie for them, including a throwback character who eventually gets to save the day, but there’s a whole lot in the movie for comic book and superhero fans and just movie fans in general. It plays like a decent comedy action flick, which is surprising considering it is an animated movie. There’s enough here to keep kids and parents interested, and jokes for both of them to enjoy.
A word to the wise, the “Everything is Awesome” song is kind of insidious. It will stick in your head and you may find yourself singing it when you least expect it to. Batman’s song, though, Batman’s song is completely awesome.