The central theme of The LEGO Movie is ultimately about allowing one’s creative impulses to be set free and not conforming to the set ways of the world. That statement could apply to the directors and writers of this picture, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. A movie based on the timeless LEGO toys might have made its studio a lot of money regardless of its quality. Yet Lord and Miller allow their creativity to run wild and what results is a highly entertaining experience that no doubt will serve as the building block (so to speak) of a new franchise.
We begin in the community of Bricksburg, where regular old construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) is perfectly happy with the micro-managed society that’s run with an iron fist (or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene fist, to be technically accurate) by President Business (Will Ferrell). The truth is that the dastardly President has plans to end the LEGO Universe and that Emmet may or may not be The Special or Master Builder (think Chosen One) who must save the world. Emmet’s journey partners him with Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a hipster who would be the traditional love interest if she weren’t dating Batman… yes, Batman (voiced marvelously by Will Arnett). There’s also a wise old wizard who is naturally voiced by Morgan Freeman and a humorous “good cop/bad cop” character figure voiced by Liam Neeson. The team of resistors to President Business’s schemes journey through visually splendid other worlds such as The Old West and Middle Zealand and even come across friends from a galaxy far far away. This is in addition to a little help from the 2002 NBA All Stars, which includes Shaquille O’Neal.
In case you’re already picking it up, The LEGO Movie is jam packed with pop culture references. There’s a lot here to keep adults smiling as much as the kids. Miller and Lord also get in their digs at corporate culture – many are quite clever, some are a bit well-worn. The voice over work is filled with smart choices and Chris Pratt now has two 2014 film heroes that youngsters will idolize.
There’s a “twist” later in the proceedings that truly did surprise me and it creates a level of emotion that I didn’t expect. It isn’t quite Pixar when it reaches its heart tugging heights (think another animated franchise about toys or Up), but it works very well. Emmet’s main problem for awhile is not believing he has the capability to be exceptional in a world that prides itself in conformity. President Business and others don’t want to allow for the innovations of others. The LEGO Movie shows its audience how important it is to strive to be unique and also be part of a team and that’s a good message for all of us. And kudos to Warner Bros. for allowing its filmmakers the chance to take what could have been an assembly line cash cow and make it something… well, pretty special.
***1/2 (out of four)