Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The LEGO Movie: All About Bricks Review

The LEGO Movie is the first ever theatrical release based on our favourite toy. After trailers, posters, stationery, a Happy Meal promotion and of course the building sets themselves, The LEGO Movie has now hit the USA and will be released in the UK on February 14th. For a pretty spoiler free review (although there may be very minor spoilers for those who like to avoid absolutely everything), read on... 

The LEGO Movie sees Emmet (Chris Pratt), the most ordinary mini-figure anyone could find, be mistaken for 'The Special'. This mix-up leads to him working with the Master Builders, led by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who believe Emmet able to stop the dastardly plan of the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) to unleash the Kragle and end the world as they know it. 

This was a movie that seemed destined to be bad. Movies based on toys have a low success rate, and run the risk of being run-of-the-mill glorified toy adverts. Anyone who leaves the cinema after The LEGO Movie will be itching to pick up some LEGO bricks, but thanks to the film reminding the audience about everything that LEGO should be rather than obvious advertising. Thankfully Warner Brothers picked Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, guys who like to make genuinely thought out films, to shepherd The LEGO Movie to the big screen.

As soon as The LEGO Movie begins, the vibe is established with brick built versions of the studio logos. As soon as those logos have passed, the pace is established and does not let up. This film rollicks along, barely giving the audience pause to marvel at the latest amazing world that has popped up on the screen before the next set piece arrives in glorious faux-stop motion. The style of movement takes a moment of getting used to, but before long it simply becomes the film's signature.

The attention to detail in The LEGO Movie is a joy. There are fantastic little visual gags tucked away, imaginative extensions of what a LEGO world would involve, lots of real LEGO elements to be spotted and some absolute treats for AFOLs who fondly remember LEGO in the 1980s.  The way classic fan favourites are referenced is very nicely done. For example, although it's never seen on screen, Bricksburg does indeed have a monorail!

Emmet is a very likable "everyman" character, and has a charming naivete. Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) turns out to be a little less confident than the audience might expect, with a little more to her character than just snarky put downs. Will Arnett's Batman is an absolute treat, giving the famous hero just a little twist to turn him into a fantastic comic distortion. Anyone who thought that they would love to hang out with Batman will think twice after seeing The LEGO Movie!

The LEGO Movie works so well, as like the best and most successful animated films, it doesn't talk down to the audience or treat itself as a "kid's film". It's a family film. It's a film for everyone. The humour in The LEGO Movie is clever, both the spoken gags and the visual ones. Some of it is wacky and left field, but the fast pace means that even if a gag doesn't hit the mark exactly there will be another on the way shortly.

What is perhaps most impressive about this film is its ambition. This is a film that satirizes society's gobbling of pop culture and ignorance of what the powers that be are doing. It celebrates creativity and individuality over conformity. It questions whether or not people should follow the instructions, despite the product it's based on having instructions in every box. There's also the obligatory moral message to believe in yourself. That may sound like a lot for a film with a running time of 100 minutes, and it is. Not every idea is fully explored, some of the questions asked are not followed up , but for an animated film based on a toy it is impressive enough that the filmmakers are even tackling these ideas, and at least raising questions for the audience.

AFOLs will appreciate The LEGO Movie more than anyone, as it respects the heritage of LEGO rather than plonking for product placement and stuffing it full of current themes. The movie seems set to be timeless,  and will awaken nostalgia for anyone who has ever played with LEGO. It has a wacky but concise story, imaginative worlds and fantastic humour. It is a perfect fit for the values and humour that LEGO has established over the years. 

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