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Lego franchise hits it big on the big screen

Protagonist Emmet in The Lego Movie.Photo courtesy Facebook
Protagonist Emmet in The Lego Movie.
Photo courtesy Facebook

After being in development for six long years, The Lego Movie has finally been released to theaters. It’s been hyped up for the past year now.

The story takes place in a generic nameless Lego city and centers on an “ordinary guy” named Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt). On the surface, it seems that Emmet is living a happy and idyllic life.

It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize that Emmet is living in a tightly regulated and controlled society. The inhabitants are under constant surveillance and are subjected to follow ‘instruction manuals’ that dictate every aspect of their daily lives. Furthermore, cheap commercialism, such as redundant TV shows and music, are used to suppress creative thought. It’s kind of like a combination of ‘Big Brother is watching you’ with the individualism suppression aspects of Fahrenheit 451.

One day while at work Emmet falls into a hole and discovers a large red object. He touches it, passes out, and wakes up to find it attached to his back. He is rescued by a mysterious woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who tells him that the object is called “the piece of resistance.” A prophecy states that a hero known as “the special” will use its power to stop the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying the world.

Emmet and Wyldstyle, along with a blind old wizard (Morgan Freeman), a revenge seeking pirate (Nick Offerman), a 1980s spaceman (Charlie Day) and even Batman (Will Arnett) embark on an action-packed adventure across the Lego universe.

With dozens of worlds and possibly thousands of characters from all walks of life of the Lego franchise, this movie seems to be an impossible feat. However, writer/director duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller are able to pull off the seemingly Sisyphean task without a hitch. Lord and Miller perfectly capture the child-like wonder of Legos with huge expansive set pieces, each with their own distinct personality like Medieval world, Pirate world, Superhero world, Wild west world, and more.

Lord and Miller have a unique approach to the tone of movie comedic elements. As you’d expect, the pair include cheesy cartoonish humor with physical comedy jokes like Emmet falling off a cliff and hitting every ledge on the way down. They spice things up though by adding more adult humor, ripping on political and social commentary along with the occasional sexual innuendo.

It’s not all fun and games as Lord and Miller also prove themselves capable action directors. Each action set piece is perfectly choreographed through single shot sequences that capture the movement of every single brick and piece. The duo even manages to pose a few philosophical questions to the audience: Does destiny triumph free will? Does free will even exist? And, if so, should it be regulated based on its destructive potential?

The characters themselves are a testament to the sharpness of Lord and Miller’s script. Lord and Miller initially present them as archetypal stereotypes. Chris Pratt is the unlikely hero, Elizabeth Banks is the beautiful heroine, Morgan Freeman is the wise old man, Will Ferrell is the evil villain and Will Arnett is… Batman. Each goes through well-crafted character arcs distinct to their individual traits. Ferrell in particular totally sells the character of Lord Business, who appears to be suffering from a Monk-like form of OCD, as he is obsessed with preventing chaos by suppressing free will. My two personal favorite characters have to be Liam Neeson’s hilarious portrayal of a police officer with a literal split personality of good cop/bad cop and Alison Brie’s Uni-kitty who has a case of bipolar disorder.

The animators of this film should be given a standing ovation for how well they capture the behavior of Legos. Besides the colorful and creatively built landscapes, the animators recreate the looks and sounds of Legos. From the biggest explosion down to the smallest hand movement the animators have encapsulated every little detail of Lego physics and behavior. The attention to detail can best be compared to Pixar’s excellent understanding of sealife behavior in Finding Nemo.

The Lego Movie is a great film that has reached a Toy Story-level of excellence for an animated film.

5 out of 5 stars

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