A great film doesn’t concern itself with what happens, so much as how it happens.” I’ve used that line once before, in a review I wrote for Toy Story 3 a few years back, describing the joy of being so moved by an animated film about toys. Well, that line is applicable once again, for the very same reason, and quoting it from a review of a widely beloved film is as well, because, believe or not, The Lego Movie is on par par with some of Pixar’s best.
It’s a rare and wonderful thing to be surprised by a film these days, and The Lego Movie absolutely blindsides; what could very easily have been a goofy little piece of novel ephemera somehow manages not only to be unique and beautiful, but also smart. It will no doubt go down as one of the best films of this year, and one that will inspire all sorts of backlash by those who see only the surface value of what The Lego Movie has to offer.
It’s almost pointless to describe the plot of the film. Incorporating just about every licensed character owned by Lego, it’s almost as though writers/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the team behind 2012’s surprisingly good 21 Jump Street) are making things up as they go along… Almost.
We follow Emmet, a by-the-instruction-booklet guy who is so ordinary he goes unnoticed, on a quest that has him fulfilling a prophecy to save the world. He teams up with side-kicks and “master-builders” (those who can dismantle an existing structure and build anything with the pieces without instructions) from different realms and planes of existence (which are really just the different themes which Lego bases their playsets on) and they fight the evil forces of President Business. Again, it’s about how things happen. The film includes more film cliches and obligatory plot devices than you even knew existed and re-appropriates them into an utterly original work of art; it’s at once a deconstruction of Hollywood blockbusters and an ode to their over-the-top ridiculousness.
Though it was made with computers, The Lego Movie is made to look like stop-motion animation, adhering fairly strictly to the physical limitations that Lego impose: hands can merely rotate and horses’ legs don’t move, so they just awkwardly hobble around. This may sound annoying, but it provides a bottomless well of sight-gags and, combined with the absurdity and manic pacing of the constantly twisting plot, creates the illusion that you’re just watching a child play with toys, which is infinitely endearing and immensely entertaining.
I’ve never seen anything like The Lego Movie, and I’m not sure there will ever be anything like it again, even if there’s a sequel. Form and function have never been so in sync as they are here. Its premise and execution are so tightly wound with its Lego-ness that this unique story could only be told using these specific toys in this specific way; it’s the only time you’ll ever see Han Solo popping out of the Millennium Falcon talking to Batman on a pirate ship in a film… And it actually makes sense! And to put that in the middle of a family film which features oddly astute social commentary about the laziness of modern media entertainment and its placating hypnosis of the masses is as bafflingly brilliant as it is hilarious.
It would be out of place for me to reveal the film’s ending here, but I’ll admit that tears were shed, by at least myself and the couple directly behind me. The film folds in on itself in a surreal and fantastic way that caught me off guard. The finale seems to come out of nowhere until you realize the film had been building toward it the entire time, and its inherent silliness and ironic self-awareness give way to heart-warmingly profound beauty which channeled in me both a nostalgic urge to be a kid again and an idealistic hope for the future of mankind.
You might say the film is simply a 90-minute ad for Lego, and you’re right, though if that’s all you saw then you shelled out 12 bucks and took the longest bathroom break of your life. In the end it’s about imagination and invention; striking out as an individual… It’s about the spirit of play, which no object or toy on Earth embodies better than Lego, so how could a film about Lego be anything but an advertisement? Just consider yourself lucky that it was such a brilliant one, the one you and millions of other football-indifferent, conversation-craving water-cooler frequenters pray to see when you tune into the Super Bowl every year. Anyone who either has a kid, or has ever been a kid, should see The Lego Movie. And yes, I fully realize that’s everyone.Powered by Sidelines