Rated: PG. Running time: 1 hour 40 min.
Our content advisories (1-10): Violence 3; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 0.
Our Star rating (1-5): 5
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,
When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…
At first glance this appears to be the biggest product placement film ever—what kid would not want to go out and buy the biggest Lego sets he or she could afford after seeing the intricate buildings and sets in this film? It may be such, but it also winds up being an enjoyable visual parable teaching—well, all kinds of moral lessons, as we’ll see. As is so often the case, adults will enjoy these moral lessons and, possibly more, references to other movies as well as the frenetic action.
The directing/writing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) use dazzling state-of-the-art CGI to bring the Lego characters to life—or maybe I should say “awesome” after listening to the catchy song “Everything Is Awesome” featured in the film. Posited in the satirical film is a world in Brickburgh that we might call Legoland presided over by Big Brother-like President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). The story itself centers on the ordinary, yellow-skinned construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) who enjoys his work. Judging by his painted on smile, all is well for him, except that he is lonely, everybody ignoring him because of his lack of talent. Given any new situation in which a bit of creativity would be welcome, Emmet always asks for the instructions. He definitely does not belong to that exalted class known as “Master Builders.”
Then comes the fateful day when Emmet spots Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) rummaging around in a forbidden hard hat area, and, while chasing her away, falls into a pit and happens upon something called the Piece of Resistance that becomes fastened to his back. Now a blind “Master Builder” figure named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who looks a lot like Moses or Obi-wan Kenobi, has voiced a prophecy that a leader called the Special will arise and save the world. The Lego world needs saving because of the plan of President Business. He likes the world as it is, and so he plans to fasten everything and everyone down with his super glue dispenser (the glue is a brand name one, but I won’t join with the film’s the product placement scheme.)
At this point viewers will think of The Matrix, except that there is no red or blue pill for the befuddled Emmet to pick, and his fall from grace at an assembly of resistence leaders is far funnier than anything in the Keenu Reeves film. Vitruvius heads the resistance group, and they at first do believe that Emmet, with the Piece of Resistance glued to \ his back, must be the Special. However, during a chase scene when Emmet proves inept, Wyldstyle realizes how unskilled he is.
In the following encounter Vitruvius says, “We are entering your mind.” Emmet, “What?” Wyldstyle (a.k.a. Lucy) comments, “I don’t think he’s ever had an original thought.” Emmet objects, “That’s not true. Introducing, the double decker couch so everyone could watch TV together and be buddies.” “That’s literally the dumbest thing I ever heard,” says Lucy. Addressing them both the prophet adds, “Let me handle this. That idea is just the worst.”
In a series of events that take them to other realms of the Lego Universe (such as the Wild West and also the middle of the ocean where that double decker couch actually comes in handy), the three gather quite a band of rebels that include: Batman (Will Arnett); a pirate named Metal Beard (Nick Offerman); the cute Unikitty (Alison Brie); and a spaceman named Benny (Charlie Day). There is also Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern, Gandalf, Han Solo, and more (even Abraham Lincoln makes an appearance). On the other side of the war, one of the first villains that Emmet encounters is the swivel-headed Bad Cop/Good Cop, delightfully voiced by Liam Neeson.
In most action thrillers the master villain is destroyed in various ingenious ways, but this inventive movie takes a different tack when in the climactic moment Emmet, who has gone through a period of self discovery, says to the now “Lord: Businessman, “You don’t have to be the bad guy. You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone. The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true. It’s about all of us. Right now, it’s about you. And you… still… can change everything.” It is a scene that will remind animated film lovers of a similar moment in the wonderful Iron Man when the boy Hogart says to the huge robot known as Iron Man that he does not have to give in to his program set to destroy the soldiers and airmen shooting at him, that he has a choice.
The third act turns out to be quite a surprising one, set in a meta-universe, and the plot switching to a father-son relationship, just as conflict ridden as the story in the first two-thirds of the film. Like Resident/Lord Businessman, the father also is faced with a fateful choice, one leading to a heart-warming ending. This is an incredibly inventive film that moves so fast that if you blink, you might have missed some delicious tidbit of humor and insight. I wish that the filmmakers had given us some brief pauses so that we can absorb a scene—I know from reading the Quotes section on Imdb.com that I missed several tidbits– but this is a miner detail. It just means that a second viewing of the film is going to be as much fun as the first. Not since the Toy Story series have I enjoyed an animated film so much, 3-D or not.
As an oldster, the film took me back to my childhood days before Lego when kids started at the age of 4 or 5 with sets of Tinker Toys that could be assembled into all kinds of things, and then graduated to Erector sets, the metal girders of which could be bolted together to form all kinds of structures and devices such as Ferris Wheels and skyscrapers, complete with an electric motor. I can well understand how today’s children can lose themselves in the incredible variety of Lego sets, especially when encouraged to lay aside the detailed instructions and create their own devices.
People of faith will appreciate the filmmakers’ attack on mindless conformity and the emphasis upon the human trait and responsibility for choosing the right path over the wrong one. The film started in a world of conformity that reminded me both of Willy Loman’s situation in Death of a Salesman, as well as Thoreau’s famous observation, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Fortunately Emmet escapes the sad fate of the salesman and finds an outlet for the song within him. So, I think, will the children who take this film to heart (I’m sure they will be watching it over and over and over again when it is released on DVD), and the fortunate adults wise enough to take the time to watch it with them.