So last weekend my buddies and I loaded up on alcohol, strapped on a pair of 3D glasses (ok, there were no straps) and reclined in those really comfy chairs at those new restaurant/theaters, ordered a couple pizzas and indulged in spoon-fed nostalgia. We watched all the characters we grew up with (superheroes, sports players, generic working class citizens) explode onto the screen with hilarious disarray and put together the pieces (pun intended) of a fun little plot that found a way to mesh ‘Toy Story’ with ‘The Matrix’ and make it all feel fresh, fun and exciting.
Seriously people, this movie was awesome!
When the idea for a LEGO inspired movie was first announced, I think the world produced a collective face palm. There are just some ideas that sound destined for failure. Nostalgia directed films are not uncommon, and it does feel like there are swells in each decade where filmmakers think that revisiting the past is a good thing; drugging up old feelings of warmth and comfort and then modernizing them to the point where those feelings are utterly destroyed, lost forever in a black hole of celluloid embarrassment. I was extremely skeptical that anything LEGO related would translate onto the big screen very well, namely because it wasn’t just MY nostalgia they were messing with. LEGOS have been around for so long that EVERYONE has a nostalgic connection to them. The oldest to the youngest, this is a point of reference for everyone, and so how do you go about making a film that makes everyone happy?
Somehow, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did just that.
Well, I can only firmly attest to half of that, since I didn’t take my children, but for me this was more than I could have hoped for. Yes, when the trailer was dropped I got excited, because it looked, well, awesome, but there was still this worry in the deepest part of my soul that they were going to royally mess this up. Fortunately, ‘The LEGO Movie’ works on so many levels. While it could have easily become clunky, messy and cluttered, the film actually feels streamlined and remarkably focused despite the huge array of characters and lands. The opening sequence does feel a tad abrupt (wait, I’m not paying attention yet) but the build on (yes, another pun) from that point forward is pretty consistent and effective.
The basic story places us in a world where everything is manipulated and controlled by one man, President Business. Everything you eat, drink, watch, listen to is all controlled by this one man. He wants everything to be…perfect. Unbeknownst to the common man, there is a group of freedom fighters working underground to restore free will to the people. These people are following a prophecy about a chosen one who is destined to find a missing ‘piece’ that will help stop the Kragle, a mysterious weapon that has found its way into President Business’s (AKA Lord Business) hands.
Enter Emmet Brickowski.
Emmet is your everyday laborer who enjoys overpriced coffees, watching people without pants and singing along to the only song on the radio. He has no friends, no real good ideas and no life whatsoever outside of the small box allotted him. When he catches a glimpse of a ‘babe’ searching the construction site for the ‘piece’, he winds up falling into a world of trouble when he finds it himself, instantly becoming a hero and the hunted at the very same time. Vitruvius, the leader of this band of freedom fighters, welcomes Emmet as the chosen one, while Lord Business and his cronies (LOL at Bad Cop/Good Cop) set off to track Emmet down, and get the piece from him.
From that point forward, Emmet and the audience are thrust headfirst into a journey that takes us from LEGO land to LEGO land, introducing us to LEGO character after LEGO character, picking up strays (Batman, Unikitty, Metal Beard) and surprising us every step of the way.
YES, the ending feels a bit sappy for the rest of the film (honestly, I would have loved it had it concluded with a hug and a “now, don’t touch my stuff”) but how can you fault this movie for pandering to us after giving us so much to laugh, cheer and obsess over? Visually, this is impeccably crafted, and the voice work is also very inspired (Morgan Freeman is BRILLIANT…like, career performance brilliant, and I’m not joking) and the catchy song ‘Everything is Awesome’ has become the theme of my life.
Is it a masterpiece? I’m not going to call it that yet, but what is achieved here is no small feat. For a group of men in their thirties slurping down beers like they were water and stuffing pizza down their throats while practically lying in bed, this was pretty much the best way to spend ANY weekend.
So, first movie of the year, first review of the year (film year) and first A of the year!!! But really, how can you NOT give this an A? I'd love for Oscar to embrace this, and while the early release date could spell trouble, the reviews for this are almost better (in some instances they ARE better) than 'Frozen' received, and the mass appeal of this movie is HUGE, so consider this a LOCK for an Animated Film nomination. It could even win, but who knows what the rest of the year has in store for us. I'd love for this to snag an Original Song nomination too, and it's possible (especially if the guilds resurrect it at year's end) but I won't hold my breath.