Toys have become a fertile ground of movie properties. Action figures, board games, and seemingly everything I ever played with as a kid has now considered a possible franchise with a built-in audience. I didn’t understand why a Lego movie needed to exist. I didn’t see a central plot. When the movie was announced, it seemed like a cheap cash-grab. What I’ve seen of Lego animated videos seemed to be nice enough, as long as it stayed within its niche. Then I saw the trailer, and got excited (once Batman showed up, I was hooked). Once I heard all the word-of mouth, I got really excited. While I tried to avoid the hype as much as possible, the common theme I heard was that this movie somehow captured the feeling of playing with Legos as a kid. Tweets put this movie in strong competition with a growing pantheon of great animated films. I had to check it out.
Warning: This is a spoiler-filled post. If you haven't seen The Lego Movie yet, you have done yourself a disservice and you should stop reading now. Go see it.
Not only did The Lego Movie fail to disappoint, the creators made it uniquely hard to describe the movie without using the word “awesome”. The story was lighthearted and fun, but seemingly always had a point. The characters were fun and interesting, when they only needed to be caricatures. Somehow, the creators of The Lego Movie managed to make something that delighted kids, parents, and just about any fan who has stacked blocks at some point. Even more impressive, the movie packs in plenty of fun and excitement; with more lessons than an after-school special.
One reason I think this movie has connected so well is that viewers have a number of characters to connect with. While Emmet is hilariously lame from the start, I bet I’m not the only one who increasingly felt uncomfortably similar to Emmet. For all of the creativity that Legos inspire, a lot of us seem compelled or even like to follow directions. We often joke that we tell kids too often that they are special, even as we hand them each a trophy. However, we create a lot of Emmets who just want to fit in, and need to be pushed/given permission to be creative.
Speaking of fitting in, who doesn’t know someone like Wildstyle? The opposite of Emmet, she’s trying so hard to be special. She changes her name and looks to stand out, but doesn’t seem to recognize that she already does due to her incredible skills as a builder. How awesome is Wildstyle/Lucy? She’s too good for Batman!
Of course, we’d hate to acknowledge any connection to Lord Business. Selling toys to geeks has become big business. Many “toys” are bought today to be put on display and never played with. Not everyone is wound up so tightly that they need to “freeze” the world just how they want it, but it isn’t too far-off. I loved watching a "micro manager" employing villain defeated by a leader that opted to simply organize individuals that he recognized were better at their specialty.
Speaking of Lord Business, lets talk about that ending. After a little foreshadowing about “visions”, I was expecting a cheap gimmick where a child’s hand would influence the end. I never expected such a great scene outside of the Lego universe. Just when the big battle begins, a relationship between a father an son steals the show. My father never wanted to glue my lego sets together, but I was always a little more inclined to follow the instructions and keep my creations “just so”. As a kid, there were a few enviable basements with entire worlds built to be put on display. I remember wanting to “create” such a collection of my own. Then again, I remember what it was like to create something original, something “better” than any of the Lego sets you could buy. Somehow, The Lego Movie did capture the feeling of playing with the toys years ago; and they did it all in Will Ferrell’s basement.
I believe The Lego Movie is a movie that will stand up well to repeat viewings. There are so many throwaway lines and character moments (I could watch an entire movie with Will Arnett’s Batman). The animation is really neat; causing viewers to look closely and verify “Yep, they made that out of Legos!”. Another positive effect of the animation is that it causes anything that is not Lego to stand out. The “Kragle”, Vitruvius’ staff, and everything hidden in Lord Business’ lair are fun additions that fit surprisingly well in the Lego world. Lastly, I look forward to looking for the easter eggs, especially pieces and characters from my old Lego sets (the ghost!).\
My face hurt from smiling and laughing throughout The Lego Movie. I just find so much to like about it. I expect to be showing this to kids and recommending this to adults for quite some time. Congrats to an animation studio not named Pixar, Disney, or Dreamworks on creating such an awesome animated treat (oops, so close!).