MRR Review: "The Lego Movie"

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Rating: PG
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Genre: Animation / Action / Comedy

For a film that cost only $60 million to produce, "The Lego Movie," released by Warner Bros. has created a big buzz. The animated film is a perfect blend of marketing and art, with its computer-generated action, clearly intended in part to sell Lego toy sets, resembling traditional stop-motion techniques. Viewers don't mind the commercial message thanks to the small touches added to the film for authenticity, such as toy brick characters appearing slightly worn as they would in any child's toy box. The film's message appeals to adults, but it contains enough humor and action to keep children entertained as well.

In the beginning of the film, the Lego world is divided. Lord Business (Will Ferrell), ruler of Bricksburg, leads one side while the Master Builders, an affiliation of dreamers and mavericks, make up the other side. Bricksburg is a bastion of capitalism in which factories dot the landscape. Lord Business wants to keep it that way. The Master Builders, however, have fresh ideas about new configurations of the community's building blocks. Children can relate to this tug-of-war between following the instructions that come with a set of Legos and building their own creations from scratch. The Master Builders are inspired in part by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a mysterious being who is part sage and part immortal.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a Bricksburg builder who appears to be happy with his boring existence, taking great comfort in drinking the same coffee and listening to the same music day after day, until he learns, after stumbling upon the legendary Piece of Resistance at a construction site, that he is actually "The Special," the savior of ancient prophesy who would one day rescue his people from a life of rigid conformity. Knowing Emmet is The Special, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a type of freedom fighter, escorts him out of Bricksburg into the Lego universe frontier. The frontier features scenes of popular Lego toy kits, including the Wild West and an outer space environment. With the help of Wyldstyle's boyfriend, Lego Batman (Will Arnett), they devise a scheme to unseat Lord Business and his evil sidekick Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson).

At one point, Wyldstyle accidentally clues Emmet in on the fact that certain Master Builders are capable of refitting Lego pieces into nearly anything, a realization that opens up Emmet's mind to huge possibilities while causing him to experience a bit of an identity crisis. Emmet signs on to help Wyldstyle and other freedom fighters combat Lord Business, who has renamed himself President business, in his plan to keep the Lego world stuck in place with an adhesive substance. In the end, Emmet relies on Wyldstyle, Vitruvius and the Master Builders to help him overcome self-doubt.

"The Lego Movie" clips along at a fast pace, switching from scene to scene and Lego world realm to Lego world realm with plenty of action along the way. Writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who also worked on "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "21 Jump Street," keep the jokes coming as well, with even the Lego world itself subject to their light-hearted ribbing. Incidentally, Miller and Lord wrote the script based on a story by Kevin Hageman and Dan Hageman, who wrote "Hotel Transylvania."

Warner Bros. has allowed the use of many of its other characters in the film, meaning that wizards from the "Harry Potter" franchise get to scrap with wizards from "The Lord of the Rings." The film's Lego Batman is hilarious, refusing to work with pieces that aren't black, or at the very least very dark gray. The Lego world has proven popular in animated form with LEGO Ninjago and LEGO Star Wars as well as a series of successful video games, so it is only natural for it to take to the big screen now. The film's central moral is to rely on playfulness and creativity in life in spite of forces that attempt to make everyone play by the same rules.

"The Lego Movie" is packed with inside jokes, wide-ranging characters and interesting activities in the background of many scenes, meaning it is possible to watch it several times and still find things to laugh about. Everyone who has spent time playing with Legos is sure to be moved to tears as well as laughter during particularly emotional segments. Despite the fact that it could be viewed as a feature-film-length commercial for a Danish toy line, "The Lego Movie" is so entertaining, warm-hearted and fun that viewers don't even mind.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5