The Lego Movie (Warner Brothers, PG)

Lego 75The Lego Movie will be a huge hit, and it completely deserves to be. This is what family entertainment should be. 

Lego 500

This is why it’s important to pay attention to directors. On paper, The Lego Movie seems like the worst idea ever. Even the title is lame and boring. But wait, it’s written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who not only are great writers and directors, but who have made a career out of subverting expectations. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is honestly one of my favorite animated films ever, but who would have expected that to be good? Remember when they announced a 21 Jump Street movie? As an idea it still sounds awful, but the movie ended up being so good it singlehandedly transformed me from a Channing Tatum hater into a fairly big fan. At this point, everyone should be caught up and on board with these guys, because everything they touch turns into gold, and that includes The Lego Movie.

The Lego Movie is set in a dystopian universe run by the evil President Business. Everyone follows a detailed set of instructions on how to live their lives, they buy ridiculously overpriced coffee, and the top song on the charts is “Everything is Awesome”, a ridiculously poppy song about the joys of conformity and following the rules. (It will also be the number one song in your head for the foreseeable future.) Emmet Brickowski is a construction worker who is very happy in this world, but he stumbles into a wacky adventure where he is seen as the prophesied savior of a rebellion of Master Builders. Master Builders are creative renegades who are able to take the Lego elements from around them and create just about anything to suit their needs. Obviously, Emmet has never thought outside of his instructions, so becoming a Master Builder is tough for him, and it makes it hard for the other rebels to rally behind him. His arc is very reminiscent of Kung Fu Panda, and if you’re like me, that’s a good thing.

Lord and Miller are very creative directors, and they fully commit to this world. The movie is a mixture of stop motion and CG animation that is meant to look like stop motion, and every little detail of the environment, including water, lasers and smoke, is made up of Lego pieces that actually exist. The story is also designed around the concept. The dystopian world is a commentary on our actual society, but it’s also an attack on overly complicated Lego designs which require kids to simply follow the instructions, rather than using their creativity. And a lot of the jokes are specific to Legos, like Liam Neeson’s Good Cop/Bad Cop character who changes by spinning his head around to reveal two different faces. These things not only justify the movie’s existence, but make it so that The Lego Movie is the only possible title.

 Another truly joyful thing about this film is the crossover element. While we all wait in dread for the Batman vs. Superman movie, we can see them both on screen here, along with Gandalf, Abraham Lincoln, that 80s spaceman we all had, Shaq, and Green Lantern, who gets treated like garbage, despite the fact that his powers are pretty similar to those of a Master Builder. This is like seeing Daffy and Donald Duck squaring off in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, or to a lesser extent, all the video game characters hanging out in Wreck-It Ralph. It’s great fun.

Lord and Miller’s movies are all funny, but that only gets them so far. What makes them stand out is how effortlessly they are able to pull at the heartstrings. Think about how organically satisfying it is to hear our heroes reciting the Miranda rights at the end of 21 Jump Street, or to hear Flynn’s dad’s thoughts through a monkey translator in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They sneak up on you, and while this isn’t as cathartic as Up, I did find myself moved by the time the credits rolled.

The Lego Movie will be a huge hit, and it completely deserves to be. This is what family entertainment should be. It’s not like Shrek, where there are jokes for the kids and jokes for the adults. In this movie, the kids and the adults laugh at the same jokes. It’s endlessly creative, and always hilarious and everything about it is awesome. I loved it from start to finish. | Sean Lass

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