THE LEGO MOVIE is, yes, an advertisement for Legos. There’s no way around that. I keep thinking of the end of the first season of MAD MEN where Don Draper comes up with the Kodak Carousel slide projector. It’s a moment of inspiration for Draper, and in the end used to sell a product, but there’s no denying that moment when the penny dropped and Draper found a burst of creativity and imagination. So THE LEGO MOVIE helps sell its product; that is undeniable. But it’s also a great movie, full of wonder, humor, and beauty.
Philip Lord and Chris Miller did exactly the right thing when they took this project. THE LEGO MOVIE is not some soulless toy commercial. It’s got surprising intelligence, heart, and soul. There’s a deep belly laugh every few seconds. And it just might have the most definitive version of Batman to ever be on screen. (Okay, that last part may be an exaggeration. But I’d see a Lego Batman movie with Will Arnett starring well before I’d see a new Chris Nolan Batman movie. That’s the cold, hard, truth.) Lord and Miller have always been funny, have always been clever, and they’ve even injected their movies with a bit more weight than seems apparent from the advertising. But with THE LEGO MOVIE, they have become a creative force where attention must be paid. There’s something for everyone in THE LEGO MOVIE – the kids will enjoy the ways that the toys are used, and the humor is always appropriate, and the adults will marvel at the sheer beauty of the scenes and might even learn something along with their children.
Nothing is out of bounds for THE LEGO MOVIE, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Do you remember playing? Do you remember the level of imagination you put into it? You created worlds, in that sandbox or on the living room floor. There was nowhere you wouldn’t go in your mind, no idea you wouldn’t explore, and certainly no legal contracts barring you from having certain characters interact together. This is a movie where you can have Gandalf and Dumbledore fight side-by-side, and Batman hop worlds with ease. THE LEGO MOVIE takes great joy in the freedom and creativity of play, and it does so subtly and cleverly. The film is full of surprises and never takes the low road.
It also takes the air out of certain Joseph Campbell story tropes, but it does it in a very nice, loving way. There is a prophecy, spoken with great authority by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), that one day a Master Builder will appear and stop the nefarious doings of Lord Business (Will Ferrell) by finding the “Piece Of Resistance,” the only piece that can stop the Craygle, Business’s evil weapon. This Master Builder will unite all the worlds that Lord Business has separated and bring peace to all of them. But it turns out that the Master Builder Vitruvius spoke of is probably one of the most ordinary people in the Lego catalog, Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), who probably doesn’t have an imaginative thought in his brain. He happily follows the instructions and sings “Everything is AWESOME!” along with everyone else in his city, even though he doesn’t have any friends.
But Emmet is thrown into adventure when he finds the Piece, and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) must bring Emmet with them on their quest to destroy the Craygle. Hot on their tail is Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), Business’s right-hand man. Eventually Emmet must figure out how to use the Piece and build something extraordinary. But Emmet just isn’t the brightest square in the box, and time is running out.
The animation is full of wonder, and audiences will marvel at how true to the Lego look and feel the movie is. Part CGI and part-stop-motion, the world the animators have created here is vast and beautiful. Mark Mothersbaugh’s music is infectious, especially the “Everything Is Awesome” theme, which will get into your ears and stay there for a few months. I’m also calling it right now – I want to see Will Arnett perform “Untitled Self Portrait” at the Oscars next year. Hell, let’s bring up all the Batmen to perform it.
The way Philip Lord and Chris Miller (along with story credits from Dan and Kevin Hageman) use all these disparate characters and bring them together is pure genius. Don’t let anyone spoil some of the great cameos in THE LEGO MOVIE – sure, you may have already seen Superman (Channing Tatum) and Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), but there’s one particular moment in the movie that made my geek child cheer with happiness. Throughout the entire film, Lord and Miller are celebrating originality and creativity, and they’re doing it in a way that feels genuine and relevant. There’s real joy in it.
Then the third act drops, and THE LEGO MOVIE becomes even more than that. Not only does it celebrate creativity and play, but it celebrates how we play together, and how the best worlds we create are the ones that we share with others. I responded as a parent and as once a child both. It’s got one of the deepest emotional switch-ups that I can remember seeing in an animated film. THE LEGO MOVIE is inspirational in the best of ways, and as pure a magical experience as Pixar at their very best. I want to see it again, not just for all the things I’ve missed in the background – there’s so much going on that I really want to pay attention to the little things – but for where the story and the characters took me. Yes, THE LEGO MOVIE is an advertisement. It’s also everything I love about movies.