THE LEGO MOVIE
(Dirs. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2014)
How did this family film based on a long running line of toys, released in the dumping ground of February, turn out to be actually a lot of genuine fun?
I attended a screening last week of this movie shortly after visiting my sick 16-year old cat at the Animal Hospital so I wasn't really in the mood to see what looked like nothing more than a feature length toy commercial, one in which every single shot could be considered product placement, but very quickly the whole thing clicked together into a supreme piece of entertainment.
Every piece fit especially Chris Pratt's (Parks and Recreation, ZERO DARK THIRTY, HER) extremely likable performance as Emmet, a generic yellow construction worker mini-figure who is thought to be the chosen one to save the Lego universe from the evil plans of Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell).
Lord Business schemes to freeze all the various worlds of Lego (The Old West, Cloud Cuckoo Land, Medieval Times, etc.) with the use of what's called “The Kragle” (actually a tube of Krazy Glue that had a few letters rubbed off) on Taco Tuesday, no less.
We are first introduced to Pratt's Emmet in a big busy production number set to the beautifully banal pop song parody “Everything Is Awesome,” written by Shawn Patterson and performed by Tegan and Sara along with the musical comedy group The Lonely Island (the rest of the score by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh is top notch as well).
This energetically silly sequence sets in place the satire of conformist consumerism of which Emmet is a happy participant - his favorite song is whatever's the #1 hit of the day and his favorite TV show is the stupid sitcom “Where's My Pants?” (shades of IDIOCRACY's “Ow! My Balls!” but PG-rated).
Emmet's life changes when he meets Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), a punky fighter girl that thought she was the chosen MasterBuilder, which are sort of like the Jedis of the Lego universe.
Speaking of Jedis, there are cameos from the STAR WARS world of Legos including Anthony Daniels reprising his iconic C-3PO voice, and Billy Dee Williams once again putting on the charms as Lando Calrissian, while voice actor Keith Ferguson puts in a passable Harrison Ford impression as Han Solo.
But the major guest appearance that steals the show is Will Arnett (Arrested Development, The Millers) as Batman, a terrific take on the ominous gravel voiced Dark Knight of recent vintage which is pure comedy gold. Every line out of Arnett's mouth made me laugh, and I loved that his version of Batman makes techno music on the side that's supposed to be as dark and brooding as he is - he plays a track he composed entitled “Untitled Self Portrait" on the Batmobile's stereo system (stay through the end credits to hear the whole song).
Also scoring big laughs are appearances by Liam Neeson as Lord Business' two-faced henchman Bad Cop/Good Cop, Channing Tatum as Superman who is annoyed by the man-crush the Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) has on him, Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, THE AVENGERS) as Wonder Woman, Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadephia) as '80s Space Guy, Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) as the unicorn/anime concoction Uni-Kitty, and Morgan Freeman as the MasterBuilder Wizard Vitruvius.
In the movie's amazing climax, Directors/writers Lord and Miller, the filmmakers behind CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and 21 JUMP STREET, take this Lego adventure to a whole new level with a surprise twist that I won't spoil that takes the heights of comic invention here to comic genius. Again, I won't say what it is, but it floored me and the audience I was in, and I bet when these guys hit upon the idea they were doing cartwheels all over the writer's room.
THE LEGO MOVIE cleverly builds upon the playthings coming to life themes of the TOY STORY trilogy and WRECK-IT-RALPH almost as if they're interconnected blocks with round-peg parameters that it can snap together with. It also has an actually inspirational message about improvising outside of the box, and the self awareness to kid about it (Freeman tells Emmet: “I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it's true.")
I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed THE LEGO MOVIE as much as I did (one only complaint is that they stay too long in The Old West world). During its rich and rewarding 100 minute running time, I was transported away from my worries (mostly about my ailing aging kitty) and had a blast. What more can you want out of a movie?
Postscript: Just in case any cat lovers out there are curious - my cat is doing much better these days.