The LEGO Movie is a movie that likely no one would expect to be as good as it is.
Already however, we have an easy contender for what could very possibly be 2014’s best family-friendly movie! The LEGO Movie is just one of those movies that works. There is no better way to describe it. The characters work. The jokes work. The larger-than-life LEGO setting works. Like a perfectly-assembled LEGO play set, The LEGO Movie’s final product is both awe-inspiring and genuinely surprising.
It’s not just great for kids either! While kids will no doubt enjoy the colourful LEGO visuals, the goofy, eye-catching 3D and the hyper-energetic cast of memorable characters, The LEGO Movie will be just as superb to adult audiences as well. This is thanks to lots of effective subtle humour without any dependence on the tired pop culture references dragging down so many modern kid-friendly movies, as well as a highly entertaining plot that is much more clever and witty than it has any right to be!
The LEGO Movie easily stands as the first must-see movie of 2014, not just for kids, but also for adults who are kids at heart!
The LEGO Movie stars Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), an aggressively ordinary LEGO construction worker who is incessantly friendly and optimistic, but never seems to be noticed or appreciated by those around him. When he inadvertently comes into contact with the Piece of Resistance however, apparently cementing him as a hero of prophecy that will save the world, he ends up in the company of adventurous rebel, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and an aged wizard, Virtuvius (Morgan Freeman) as he strives to unlock his apparent hidden potential as a ‘Master Builder.’
Sure, the characters all sell an expected and established family-friendly movie theme of everyone being special in their own way, but nonetheless, The LEGO Movie’s cast is so full of unique personality and charm that they’re impossible to dislike. Chris Pratt’s loveably oblivious schtick lends itself perfectly to Emmet, and even for an animated movie, it seems like every voice actor is playing off of Pratt’s energy while simultaneously bringing their own appeal to proceedings. It truly is a cast that everyone contributed a little something of their own to, which is appropriate for a movie like this.
Another standout amongst the actors is Will Arnett, in a hilarious supporting role as the LEGO incarnation of Batman. Adults especially will be in hysterics at Arnett’s perfect delivery in the part, creating a character that is so comically smug that it feels like not only an effective Batman parody, but also an effective parody of that one character that the hero wishes they were, even though said hero is kind of a jerk. Arnett also shares many of the movie’s best moments of dialogue with Pratt, and the two play off of each other as wonderful comic foils!
Channing Tatum, Cobie Smulders and Jonah Hill have bit roles as LEGO Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern respectively (A LEGO version of The Flash appears in passing, but never speaks and is never seen again), though they’re mainly relegated to throwaway gags, and have disappointingly little screentime. There’s a running joke about Green Lantern wanting to buddy up to Superman, who finds Green Lantern insufferable, but it feels a bit wasted. Fortunately, Batman’s consistently funny presence makes sure that you don’t miss these other DC characters too much.
Will Ferrell voices the movie’s villain, President/Lord Business, president of the evil and totalitarian Octan Corporation, who wants to manipulate everything in Emmet’s city of Bricksburg into its own vision of perfection. Ferrell’s character is another delightfully over-the-top villain personality, complete with dim-witted robot minions, and real-world objects that he believes are holy relics.
Ferrell also finds an outstanding comic foil in Liam Neeson, playing Good Cop/Bad Cop, a LEGO police officer with a split personality. As fun as Ferrell is, Neeson feels like the truly standout antagonist, as both kids and adults will find his fantastically unpredictable dialogue to be both fun and memorable.
Perhaps what makes the characters work especially well however, whether they’re in large parts or simply bit parts, is that, while the movie’s elements of parody and comedy feel smart and well-executed, the way that all of the characters speak in a wide-eyed, innocent fashion also feels undeniably like how they would speak in a child’s mind. Maybe a smart child most of all, but nonetheless, a child. The characters feel like a child’s fantasies coming to life with the magic of LEGO, but with all of the wit and charm that adults will most appreciate.
There isn’t a single weak link in the cast either. Everyone is adorable and fun in their own special way. Every character in the movie truly does feel special, whether good or bad, especially since even the bad characters aren’t just treated as shallow villains. It’s difficult to explain without spoilers, but put simply, The LEGO Movie is a textbook example of how to do an ensemble kid-friendly movie cast right!
Like I said, the themes behind The LEGO Movie aren’t complicated, nor completely original. Movies like Kung Fu Panda have explored this same territory, being underdog stories that teach the value of everyone having something to offer the world, and everyone having the capacity to be special in their own way, as long as they’re willing to believe in it and work for it.
The way that The LEGO Movie tells its story doesn’t simply work on this level alone however. It also works on multiple others.
For example, the movie is also an effective parody of how aggressive, revenue-driven business practices can hamper creativity. Adults will easily be able to appreciate the clever portrayal of how creativity can be corrupted, and what makes genuine creativity that much easier to appreciate. The satire centering on creative bankruptcy in Bricksburg is something that will probably go over kids’ heads, but at least kids will still be able to laugh at how effectively these ideas are implemented into simple, easy-to-understand goofiness on the parts of the characters, even if they won’t understand where the comedy comes from as well as an adult would.
Another effective layer that the plot wholly succeeds at is in the celebration of LEGO itself. There’s a risky, but brilliant twist with the characters in the final act of the movie that makes the final result of the story both surprising and genuinely heartwarming. It also works in proving why LEGO has been as popular as it is for decades, and why multiple generations can appreciate the unique sort of potential that these toys and play sets offer. LEGO lets you be as perfect or as imaginative as you want to be, and the toys work on both levels, which also effectively ties into the movie’s themes of everyone having something to offer the world, even if not everyone understands or appreciates exactly what that something is.
That’s the kind of uplifting message that is just as effective for kids as it is for adults. We all want to feel special, and The LEGO Movie does just that. It’s a story about how nobody is truly useless, and it is uses the allegory of LEGO to brilliantly illustrate that, celebrating both the toy itself, and those LEGO fans who have made it what it is.
It’s a story that couldn’t possibly have been told better with this foundation!
The LEGO Movie feels like something of a thrill ride once it gets going, whisking audiences between various backdrops and sometimes cramming in both visual gags and humourous dialogue at a rather breathless pace. Kids will especially enjoy The LEGO Movie’s incredible energy, especially during the action scenes that are as funny as they are exciting.
With that said however, The LEGO Movie still knows when to stop and take a breather. There are some truly heartfelt character moments at set points in the story, even if they often end with more goofy gags. Still, the movie doesn’t just feel like it’s trying to pander to a child’s short attention span. It knows how to develop the world and the characters, and it doesn’t force the frenetic excitement. It just lets it happen naturally, and it works.
The LEGO Movie’s incredible polish even rivals most Pixar productions! You can tell at every corner that this is a movie put together with an incredible amount of love and care. It would have been very easy to make this a dopey, brainless, overdone cash-in, but The LEGO Movie is a movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience, nor feel the need to compromise its story or message because it’s friendly for kids. Even when you see bit appearances by characters from Star Wars or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or even the superheroes of DC Comics, it still works in service to a movie that is so happy to celebrate imagination.
The LEGO Movie would have rung completely hollow had it gone for the low-hanging fruit, but it’s directed with care, not overstaying its welcome, and accomplishing everything it sets out do with aplomb. It’s a rare example of a blatantly commercial movie that works because it celebrates the creators behind those commercial elements, not just how these commercial elements can easily make the studio money for little effort.
MUSIC & SOUNDTRACK
Like the pacing, the soundtrack in The LEGO Movie is often very upbeat and relentless. The more character-driven moments are often quiet, and there’s never music blasting over the action that just distracts from all of the clever visual play, but as far as kid-friendly soundtracks go, The LEGO Movie packs in a good one. It’s fun, and it’s plenty charming, just like the movie’s characters and setting.
The movie even packs in a theme single, ‘Everything is Awesome!!!’, which plays in several variations over the movie itself, as well as the credits. The song is loads of fun and truly difficult to get out of your head! Kids will probably be incessantly singing it for a while, much to the annoyance of their parents no doubt, but, in all fairness, it is a very good song that suits the movie well.
The rest of the soundtrack tends to shift in tone, complementing the wide variety of unpredictable locations that The LEGO Movie moves between, but it always suits the fun well.
While it appears as if it were a stop-motion movie, The LEGO Movie is actually fully CG-animated. An outstanding amount of care has gone into rendering the movie in such a way that everything fully appears in LEGO form. Plastic flames are used when things are on fire, the LEGO studs are used with water and smoke effects, and the same studs are even used to illustrate explosions! There’s not one part of the movie’s world that isn’t fully rendered in LEGO, and it’s really a sight to behold!
Even the character animations are done to appear as if they’re being manipulated by invisible human hands. The result is a highly distinct animated movie that not only separates itself from competing offerings from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks Animation or Blue Sky Studios, but also from previous straight-to-DVD LEGO-themed movies, which had realistic backgrounds and effects used with LEGO characters.
The 3D meanwhile is adequate, and should mainly entertain children. If you’d rather just stick with the 2D cut, the movie doesn’t lose a whole lot. There are a few visual gags and more in-your-face action effects that feel explicitly designed to take advantage of the 3D elements, and these will stick out more in the 2D cut, but they’re not all that common. For most of the movie, the 3D gives the movie an effective diorama-esque feel during wide shots, which makes the LEGO locations feel a bit more tangible, but it’s nothing wholly essential to the experience.
If you like 3D, the 3D does just enough to get by, and the 3D cut is ultimately worth watching as a result, but some 3D enthusiasts may feel that more could have been done with the effect in the end.
Even so, The LEGO Movie is a wonderfully crafted visual piece that brilliantly uses its namesake to stand apart from the pack. It’s not just a movie that happens to have LEGO in it. It’s a true LEGO movie, and is just another way that the toy has proven to be an impressive creative outlet for so many decades!
The LEGO Movie could have been a lazy, heartless attempt to simply make money off of a successful toy brand in another medium. Refreshingly however, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a movie that not only celebrates the toy that inspired it, but also the people who use both LEGO and other means to contribute their own special creative gifts to the world, and to those they care about.
Kids will mainly enjoy The LEGO Movie because it’s bright, colourful and often frantically-paced, but adults will find a movie much smarter and more inspired than they’d likely initially give it credit for. Underneath all of the silly jokes and vibrant LEGO visuals is a story that salutes and celebrates the art of creativity itself, and why creative people are essential to society.
Even just taken as an innocent kids’ movie, The LEGO Movie succeeds on every level. It’s funny. It’s memorable. It’s charming. It makes superb use of its license. It’s just a very entertaining, very well-realized movie all-around. It is also, as I mentioned, the first must-see movie of 2014, for any type of audience!
It now seems beyond a doubt that you can truly build anything with LEGO, even an outstanding movie!
*Editor’s Note: Our apologies for the tagline up top (and the video) and getting that song stuck in your head again.
Boasting loveable characters, a hugely entertaining plot and a very heartfelt message, The LEGO Movie is a kid-friendly masterpiece that marks 2014's first must-see movie!