The LEGO Movie

Batman: "Relax, everybody. I'm here."

Whether you're a fan of animation, LEGOS, or movies in general, I strongly recommend this one. It's pretty special. (This review will be spoiler free.)

Lets start with the basics. The animation is very impressive. It feels like how I always imagined LEGOS moving and interacting. Much like the wonderful (mostly) video games based on Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Batman, the smooth and seamless way the little plastic blocks come to life is rather remarkable. Add to that the level of loving detail, where small smudges and chips in the plastic can be seen, along with how everything is in LEGO, from the food to the explosions. It's so layered, and practically every scene has at least one little cookie for the audience to find.

As for the plot, it was a fairly basic guy on a quest framework, but it ended up being so much more than that. What really impressed me was how much time was spent building up characters. Funny that a glorified toy commercial had emotional range and character depth. I mean I actually cared about each character, even the ridiculous ones. Then there's Batman, yes Batman. He's a supporting character, but he almost steals the show. He's funny, and awesome, and just about perfect. He even sings. He wasn't the only good character, far from it. He's just the one that's easy to talk about without spoilers.

All that characterization was backed up by some pretty snappy and witty dialogue, which was performed by some really great voice talent (Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Chris Pratt, and of course Morgan Freeman, as well as a bunch of small parts and cameos). Sure some of the jokes fell a bit flat for me, but I heard some of the kids in the audience laughing, so maybe those jokes weren't aimed at me.

Only, those aren't the only reasons why this movie is so good. I think quite simply the people behind the scenes got it. They got what it's like for a kid to play with LEGOS, from the carefully designed sets to the wild flights of imagination where a hybrid shark spaceship becomes a reality. Yet I never found it to be pandering to the audience, either. It was accessible to all ages, and is one of those kid movies where the adults will get something out of it, too.

I had absolutely no expectations going into this, and I loved it. Perhaps it's because I played with LEGOS as a kid (and a bit still as an adult). And I fully admit that my first impulse after watching this was to dig out my box of dusty plastic bricks and build something. The thing that really strikes me, though, as I think about The LEGO Movie, is how subversive it is. It throws out some pretty heavy themes, and doesn't shy away from poking fun at itself.

The beauty in a movie like this is that it is only limited by the imagination of its creators. Thankfully, the writers and directors of this movie had that in spades. They very clearly thought about a story that functioned within the confines of this particular product and made it work. It didn't even occur to me until halfway through that it was basically one long advertisement for LEGOS. Except at the same time it was also about joy and the innocence of childhood and the search for what makes us special. I can't say that about a lot of films. Oh, and Batman was awesome... did I say that already?

Quotes:

Emmet: "Could you make one of these in orange?"
Batman: "I only work in black. And sometimes, very, very dark gray."

Green Lantern: "Don't worry, Superman. I'll get you out of there."
Superman: "No, don't..."
Green Lantern: "Oh my gosh, my hands are stuck. My legs are stuck as well."
Superman: "I super hate you."

I guess it almost goes without saying, but this is officially the first high point of the year for me (movie wise). I hope the rest of the year follows this example.

4 out of 4 LEGO Bricks

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

6 comments:

sunbunny said...

I had no desire to see this movie and it just hopped onto my "MUST SEE" list. :)

As a kid, all my Legos were pink and lavender and baby blue. Did I shock you? No?

rebecca_s921 said...

As a child growing up in Taiwan, LEGOs were not easy to find, but my mom was able to buy a set for me every year. Watching this movie brought back all those memories, of making things up then smashing them to pieces then building again. Watching the movie's trailer I thought it'd be a silly time-waster, who knew it had a lot of heart, and moments that brought tears to my eyes. Most definitely worth the money.

(Appropos of nothing, there were lovely Girl Scout selling cookies outside the theater. The thin mints were perfect movie snack!)

Juliette said...

I loved this movie (and Batman was definitely awesome - though of course, everything was). The pirate ship and the 1980s spaceman were particularly special to me :)

Jess Lynde said...

Wonderful review, J.D. At the risk of falling victim to the "everything is awesome" mantra, this movie was awesome! We're pretty much "in the bag" for LEGOs in my house, as my husband adores them, and we've really enjoyed introducing our older daughter to them and building some complicated sets with her. We took her to see this movie today, and it was so much fun for all of us. From the LEGO bits and pieces, to the instructions, to the creations, to the simultaneous adherence to and subversion of tropes, to the overall direction the story took, it struck all the right chords for us. The voice talent was indeed wonderful, and I particularly enjoyed Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson. Batman was certainly awesome and funny (that song!), but I think I laughed harder at Badcop because of the work Liam Neeson was doing.

Of course, my husband is now really sad that his parents long ago got rid of his 1980s spaceman set. :(

J.D. Balthazar said...

I have a huge plastic bin full of LEGOS still, including some 1980's space men. Although for a lot of the older sets I don't have instructions, not that it matters. I'm gonna have to dig out one of those space guys at some point.

I'm so glad I'm not alone in my love for this movie, I wish it wasn't spoilerific to talk about why it is so affecting.

Heather said...

JD,
I love this review! Every time I've tried to describe how subversive this movie is to people I fail miserably because, I think, it has to be seen to be believed! My seat could barely contain me, my subverted expectations and my sheer joy.