REVIEW: THE LEGO MOVIE / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: PHIL LORD, CHRISTOPHER MILLER / SCREENPLAY: PHIL LORD, CHRISTOPHER MILLER, DAN HAGEMAN, KEVIN HAGEMAN / STARRING: CHRIS PRATT, ELIZABETH BANKS, WILL ARNETT, MORGAN FREEMAN, WILL FERRELL, LIAM NEESON, CHARLIE DAY, NICK OFFERMAN / RELEASE DATE: JULY 21ST
Everything is Awesome! This has been the battle cry of practically every single person who saw and enjoyed The LEGO Movie at the cinema earlier this year and has been pretty much the theme tune of 2014 so far. (Though parents with small children addicted to Disney’s Frozen may beg to differ.)
Now with its appearance on DVD, those of us who were not lucky to catch this feature in the theatre can be exposed to the relentless multi-media marketing empire that is LEGO. It is entirely understandable if you avoided this movie when it was in the cinema; movie tie-ins for children’s toys tend to be successful but are rarely satisfying and the more popular the toy, the less effort needed to make the thing sell. As LEGO can be easily described as the most popular toy invented, caution seems sensible.
Fortunately, you would be wrong. The LEGO brand has already established itself as a toy line that is more than a little bit cheeky and postmodern in its approach to storytelling, with the vast plethora of LEGO video games being filled with cunning sight gags and references to the practicalities of making things out of LEGO. The movie follows the same approach, but in this case every brick and movement has been lovingly rendered to make the entire thing look like it’s been made out of LEGO, right down to the mould lines. (It’s actually CGI, in case you’re wondering.)
The plot itself follows the story of Emmet, a humble construction worker who spends his days putting together giant structures in a LEGO city and following every single instruction to the letter. Not following the rules is severely punished thanks to the tyrannical rule of Lord Business, but the likes of Emmet are too busy singing “Everything is Awesome” and trying to fit in to notice how sinister things really are. His life changes when he encounters something that is definitely not LEGO approved. Following a spot of police brutality, he is rescued by a cult of anti-rules style renegades who recognise that he is the Chosen One, set to free all the LEGO people from the tyranny of Lord Business.
If that sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. The narrative feels like it has come straight out a child’s imagination and this is exactly the thing LEGO is trying to evoke. The movie does have a message, and it’s that commercial and practical interests should never be allowed to hamper creativity and fun. This philosophy has been applied to every single level of the movie itself, from the bullet-time style scenes where the characters can see the part numbers of each piece to clever plot twists that take this feature to the next level. Will Ferrell and Chris Pratt put in especially strong voice acting performances and they truly make the viewer care about these little plastic people.
From the clever references to the history of LEGO, with everything from an '80s LEGO space man (with flaws and all) to the brief appearances of Fabuland toys, this movie encapsulates all things LEGO. It also features the LEGO versions of the Justice League, as well as one of the most definitive versions of Batman put on screen so far. There are enough cultural references, LEGO community shout-outs and pieces of social commentary in this movie to fill a book, and no doubt we’ll see many academic and commercial examinations of this movie for years to come. LEGO have produced a cultural phenomenon, which given how ubiquitous its toys are, makes perfect sense.
EXTRAS: "Everything Is Awesome" Sing-Along, Fan Made Films: Top-Secret Submissions