Let me start off by saying Everything is Awesome! My wife and kids are awesome. My mom’s spaghetti and meatballs are awesome. Paris, France is awesome. A ballpark hotdog is awesome. And guess what else, “The Lego Movie” is pretty awesome! Yes even a picky old fogey like me, who finds it hard to find a satisfying animated picture, loved this crazy film based on (of all things) toy building blocks. Who says you can’t make a great movie out of almost anything?
“The Lego Movie” comes from the multifarious minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. A Lego movie in some form has been in the works at Warner Brothers since 2008. In 2011 Lord and Miller were brought on board to both write and direct the project. The two had previously worked on the brain-dead “21 Jump Street” and the fairly fun “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. But “The Lego Movie” reveals a sharp and clever wit that stays consistent throughout the entire film. So many animated movies start promising but loses their focus in a deluge of schizophrenic slapstick or dumbed down humor (I’m looking at you “Wreck-It Ralph”). That’s never the case with this film. It occasional gets close but ultimately the same charm and humor runs consistently through the movie.
The story centers around a very average construction worker named Emmet Brickowski (voiced wonderfully by Chris Pratt). He is an ordinary by-the-book guy who has no interesting or unique qualities at all. He lives in a Lego city named Bricksburg where everyone follows the same routine, everyone watches the same TV show (think Benny Hill), and everyone sings what must be the national anthem “Everything is Awesome”. Emmet is a lonely fellow but he is too busy following the instructions on how to live to even notice.
But one afternoon by sheer chance he stumbles upon a mysterious object called the Piece of Resistance and an even more mysterious woman named WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks). Eventually he learns that the Piece is the key to stopping the dastardly Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who is actually a wealthy businessman and tyrannical President of Bricksburg. His ultimate goal – world domination by squashing the independent creativity of the people and maintaining the world in his image alone (oh yes, the evil capitalist corporation jab). Emmet discovers that he may be the fulfillment of a prophecy which states that one known as the “Special” would use the Piece to thwart Business’ plans. In other words, Emmet’s undistinguished life could be changed forever.
Emmet’s adventure takes him to a number of far away lands. It also introduces him to an number of different people voiced by a host of Hollywood names. There is a policeman with Multiple Personality Disorder (Liam Neeson). There is a blind wizard who first tells of the prophecy (Morgan Freeman). There is the one and only Batman who also happens to be a Master Builder (Will Arnett). There is such a fun assortment of other characters voiced by the likes of Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Shaquille O’neal, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Cobie Smulders, etc. etc. etc.
But what separates this from the usual, run-of-the-mill animated feature? I get back to the goofy yet sharp wit of the script and the consistency it maintains from start to finish. I also think it does a marvelous job of straddling the line of comedy aimed at adults and comedy aimed at children. I laughed just as much as my two kids. In fact, we watched it in a packed theater where the boisterous laughs of children were rivaled by the laughs of their parents. That’s not an easy feat for a filmmaker to accomplish. And then there is the entire look of the film. Everything is Lego from the opening and closing credits to the vast colorful landscapes. The motions make you think Lego and even the action sequences stay within the crazy building block bounds. I loved the visual flare.
There are a few things in “The Lego Movie” that I could nitpick, but honestly those minor gripes did nothing to dampen my overall experience. For me this was a rare animated treat but more than that it was a rare modern comedy that actually delivered the goods. Great voice acting, sharp writing, and a wonderful story all the way down to its core. With the bazillions of dollars this movie is making, a sequel is all but guaranteed. I only hope it’s as funny and infectious as this first one because this is a hard act to follow.