Monday, 17 February 2014

The LEGO Movie

Before I compose my thoughts on hit animation The Lego Movie, you need to know a little about me. I quite like Lego. OK, that’s a slight understatement. You could say I enjoy Lego more than the average person. To be perfectly honest, I’m days away from my twenty-eighth birthday and live in a house in which the spare room is begrudgingly titled ‘the Lego room’ by my long suffering girlfriend. I love collecting the stuff, building it, looking at it and have even dabbled in stop motion animation. Hello everyone, my name’s Tom and I’m a Legoaholic. Attempting to put aside my love of the brightly coloured Danish bricks, I saw The Lego Movie and came to the conclusion that, it. is. awesome.

Bought to life via the minds of the wacky duo behind the insanely fun Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, The Lego Movie combines stop motion and GCI animation. Injected with copious amounts of wit and childish humour, it’s unleashed on an imaginative world, packed full of recognisable characters. One of Lego’s strengths in recent years has been its ever expanding universe, creating tie-ins with popular movie franchises. Added to the company’s long history of inventive subjects and sets, the film is given a blank canvas to fill with all manner of characters and creations. The movie’s central theme is that of creativity and individualism and no toy typifies this more than Lego. The main narrative is as unoriginal as a knock-knock joke but it’s surrounded by a colourful universe into which all manner of surprises and joke are crammed. Like a cardboard box surrounded by an acid trip, it’s expanded, melted, twisted and contorted until something hilarious plops out of the backside of a psychedelic aardvark.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a run of the mill construction worker who is tasked with saving the world. This in itself could be the beginning of any generic, let’s be honest, Jason Statham lead, action movie. Bought into the plot however are characters such as Batman (Will Arnett), a blind wizard (Morgan Freeman), a good cop/bad cop (both Liam Neeson) and a unicorn-kitten hybrid (Alison Brie). This eclectic bunch are just a few of the central characters. The extras and worlds they inhabit are even more mind boggling and comical. The Lego Movie begins with an outrageously entertaining sequence in which we follow Emmet from the moment he wakes up until he finishes work. It introduces us to the setting and provides countless laughs, getting the film off to a tremendous start. Within three or four minutes, we know where we are and the tone is set. The film manages to continue with the extremely high gag rate right up until the middle of the third act, never failing to introduce an odd, clever or weird character or idea to the mix. The movie has such a large potential cast to pick and choose from that it just never runs out of ideas.

The humour and themes are much more subversive than you’d expect from what is essentially a children’s film. Emmet’s world is one of rules, instructions and blind acceptance of ones place. The movie introduces the idea of thinking outside the box and doing away with instructions, allowing creativity to flourish. Teamwork is also an important theme but this is all kept within the realm of building and construction, bringing the film back to its central aim which is to sell Lego. There are numerous digs at big business, coffee chains, unintelligent sitcoms and generic pop music which all resonated with myself and it appeared, many others. In my screening, it seemed as though the adults were enjoying the movie much more than the many children and it does seem as though the film is pitched higher than the average Half Term fare. This is in no way a bad thing though as the film opens itself up to the entire family, providing entertainment for those of all ages. 

The animation is top notch from start to finish and I can only imagine the number of hours each scene would have taken to construct and film. There is often so much going on that the action is a blur, a slight negative for me, but the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ meant that the eyes were never bored. Some scenes are beautiful in their construction. A sequence set at sea is magnificent, with waves of bricks gently rolling across the screen. The CGI elements are well handled but don’t outdo the stop motion. The frame rate is smooth and consistent and nothing judders. It exhibits exceptional work from the Australian Animal Logic studio.

One of the many highlights of the movie is the fantastically cast voice acting. Emmet’s everyman persona and childlike excitement is wonderfully performed by Chris Pratt. Will Arnett steals the show as an arrogant Batman, delivering not only some of the best lines but a fabulous song about darkness and his orphaned status. Will Ferrell is good as President Business but doesn’t shine as much as some while Elizabeth Banks is equally fine as the heroine Wyldstyle. Liam Neeson is simply incredible as the schizophrenic good cop/bad cop, providing the film with some hilarious moments while Charlie Day gives the film its biggest laugh as 1980s astronaut guy. The voice acting and indeed sound throughout is of an unbelievably high standard. Another highlight is the ridiculously catchy song, Everything is Awesome. Intended as an example of the generic pop tripe that makes drones of us all, it’s annoyingly catchy. So catchy in fact that I spent all day at work in a duet with a friend, much to the annoyance of those who hadn’t seen the film.

If I have one complaint about the movie, it’s with the third act. Towards the end, the film takes a step back from the Lego world and into live action reality. Personally I could have done without these scenes as I was aware of the meaning behind what had come before. I understand that as a children’s film, this was perhaps needed but it felt like over explanation. This aside, there is little I’d change or want removed. Before seeing the movie I was worried about product placement and technically the whole movie is an advert. This gets to my cynical side but I liked the disclaimer at the end of the credits which stated that none of the company’s products used in the film had paid to be there. I’m sure commercial rights deals were done beforehand with movie rights in mind but it put me more at ease about watching what is essentially a one hundred minute advert.

The Lego Movie takes the bar set by the recent Lego video games and raises it. It captures the essence of the toy, the fun, the creativity and the humour. It panders to no one and maintains a high gag rate from start to finish. The animation is wonderful and the story is entertaining and subversive. You’re never sure what’s around the corner but always sure that whatever it is, it will hit the spot. The movie is an absolute triumph, the funniest I’ve seen in the cinema for sometime and I can’t wait to get back to see it again.

GFR 8/10

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  1. Its great to read that this movie has many funny moments. I hope to see this one soon. Great review

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