Seeing a trailer for the Lego Movie, it’s easy to imagine this would be just another fun CGI romp. Most recent jaunts by Disney, for example, have the same basic skeleton but lack the originality of earlier entrees such as Toy Story, Wall-E and Up and DreamWorks seems to create films for kids from one basic recipe: take bumbling idiot, give him the chance to be heroic and triumph against all odds. The LEGO Movie, however, takes many of these basic conventions and stands them on their head.
The style of animation, although all done on computers, makes one think of the old-school Rankin-Bass-Rankin stop motion style but on steroids. The all-LEGO design, even visualizing flowing water and fire all through LEGO pieces, is pretty stunning. The final brick in the wall, however, is the sophisticated humor the film is imbued with. It’s a wonderful thing when you and your kids can laugh together and not spend a moment bored. The comedy styling is surprisingly somewhere between 70’s era Saturday Night Live and Family Guy.
The story centers around an average Joe construction worker named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt). Emmet is a fellow who lives an existence governed by exact routines from what time he gets up every day to the shows he watches on television to what he eats to even how he interacts with people. He is the ultimate proletariat, content in living an existence without challenge and finding great joy in knowing his place in the world.
He is found by a Lego character looking like a graffiti artist from the 80’s named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who thinks he is the Master Builder, a Jedi-type character who has been prophesied as the one who will overthrow President Business (Will Ferrell). President Business rules their LEGO nation benevolently on the surface. However, he who in private quarters calls himself Lord Business (a Darth Vader-ish alter ego) plans on unleashing a scheme to enslave everyone in the LEGO universe…a plan that will unfold on Taco Tuesday.
Emmet and Wyldstyle endeavor to prevent this from happening, aided by the wizard who had the prophesy of Emmet’s destiny, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman, who surprises with his comic delivery), Wyldstyle’s boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Superman (Channing Tatum) and even Abraham Lincoln (Orville Forte).
The story on the surface is a good old fashioned good versus evil tale – however, it surprisingly veers off the path to reveal its true heart as an examination of the importance of individuality and being creative and unique and unafraid of challenging the status quo. For a film from one of the biggest movie studies in the world it is surprisingly anti-corporate and pro-individualist, insidiously packaged as a fun movie for the whole family. The one downside of this film is that the theme song, “Everything is Awesome,” will be guaranteed to stay in your head for days afterward.