The LEGO Movie Review

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The LEGO Movie Review

Matthew Deckers '21, Entertainment Analyst

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Now that The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is in theaters, I decided to rewatch the first one from 2014. Before this movie came out, people had no hope for it. Most viewers thought that this was just going to be a quick cash-grab meant to sell more toys. And while it was just a feature-length advertisement in a way, people were surprised when they found out that this movie was made with actual passion and talent. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, famous for their work on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, directed and wrote The LEGO Movie to make a fun time for both younger and older audiences.

The film begins by introducing us to Lord Business, a corrupt leader who finds a super-weapon called the Kragle, and Vitruvius, a wizard who is part of a group called the Master Builders. Business blinds the wizard using a laser and takes the weapon for himself, stating that he will unleash it on the upcoming Taco Tuesday. Exactly eight and a half years later we follow Emmet, a generic LEGO construction man who lives in the city of Bricksburg. After an ordinary day of work he stumbles upon a woman named Wyldstyle, who is searching for something in the construction site. Emmet investigates and accidentally falls into a hole, stumbling upon the Piece of Resistance. He soon learns that he is part of a grand prophecy to use the Piece to prevent Lord Business from going through his with his plans to unleash the Kragle.

This plot synopsis sounds ridiculous and absolutely childish, I know. And that’s a part of the magic of The LEGO Movie. Using a creative, colorful, and meaningful form of computer animation, that feeling of creating whatever you want with LEGOs is captured perfectly. Almost everything in this movie, minus some other real-world objects, is made out of LEGO bricks, including all of the particle effects. Lasers, bubbles, the ocean, explosions, fire, and even the motion blur of characters moving are all represented by bricks. It’s clearly a homage to stop-motion animation (though there are a few stop-motion scenes in the movie), as every movement is slightly slower and stiffer than what we normally see in these types of films. The fact that it’s computer-animated allows for even more detail to be added such as lighting and up-close camera movements, but the facial animations were also surprisingly impressive. There are a lot of little nuances in the characters’ faces when they express different emotions, like them moving their eyes in different directions or biting their lips. The amount of effort that went into animating The LEGO Movie is applaudable, and I can’t see how this would look bad in the coming years.

That’s not even the best part of the film. Lord and Miller wrote a children’s animated movie that actually has deep social commentary hidden underneath all of the silly writing and bright colors. I’ve seen people criticize The LEGO Movie for being too simple and too cliche, but they’re only looking on a surface level. In the first ten minutes of the film we’re already being shown a dystopian exaggeration of our very own society. The citizens of Bricksburg are brainwashed into following the exact same schedule everyday and they accept it with open arms. They’re constantly under surveillance by Lord Business, while propaganda posters and pamphlets are spread throughout the city to remind them what they’re allowed to do. They wait in lines to buy hilariously overpriced coffee everyday and don’t even question it. Everyone only watches the same sit-com on TV called “Where are my Pants?”, a show with one single joke that people think is absolutely hysterical. Most prominently, everyone listens to the same song for literally hours at a time. “Everything is Awesome”, which ironically got nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, is purposefully annoying, repetitive, and catchy. It’s a comment on how all modern music is, in a way, the same song played over and over until it’s glued into our brains. It also shows how compliant we are with hearing these songs and singing along to them whenever they play over the radio, this being shown by the citizens regurgitating the lyrics for hours and even a group of robots doing the same thing as well.

That must sound like a completely different movie than something called The LEGO Movie, but trust me, it isn’t. What’s even better is that all of these dystopian messages don’t get in the way of the movie being hilariously entertaining. Most of the more adult themes are used for comedy and absolutely nothing is taken seriously. Even the emotional moments are played off as jokes, including character deaths. All of this stuff is funny to older audiences, but it’s still just as entertaining for children because they don’t understand the hidden meanings and mainly enjoy the silliness of it. There’s also plenty of references to pop culture, made more entertaining by other LEGO properties appearing on screen. Most of the time humor based around references never works, but under talented directors like Lord and Miller they actually make for a lot of memorable little moments. As soon as Batman and the other Master Builders show up on screen the movie constantly makes fun of those characters and itself. Batman, for example, wrote his own “brooding” song about how his life is full of darkness, and the lyrics are literally just “Darkness. No parents. Continued darkness…” Moments like these make this movie a lot more special. I do have some genuine issues with the humor, however. I’ll admit that the movie is a little too childish for me during the first act. There are still some great moments but the comedy started to pick up for me a lot more when the characters travel to the Wild West in the second act.

One of the main criticisms directed towards The LEGO Movie is that it’s cliche-ridden, which is something I’ll never understand. Yes, there are a lot of cliches, but people don’t seem to realize that the movie is actively making fun of them as they happen. The whole narrative is a pretty standard “chosen one” story that we’ve seen again and again in adventure movies, this time carried by humor and irony rather than actual stakes or consequences. However, there’s a dramatic twist towards the end of the film (if you’ve seen this movie you know what I’m talking about) which disregards the entire story and seems like it should be taken somewhat seriously, but it’s immediately followed by a joke. This ties back into the fact that the movie takes nothing seriously. Another common “cliche” in this movie that people point out is in the leading female role, Wyldstyle. Many have pointed out that her entire character is the generic girlfriend archetype that we’ve (unfortunately) seen way too much of in cinema. Again, people are only looking on the surface level. Throughout the entire movie Wyldstyle is consistently shown to be much more competent and interesting than the main character. Time and time again Emmet is being saved and outsmarted by her, while he struggles to do anything super impactful until the third act. Additionally, Wyldstyle is the most developed character in the movie and goes through a more layered arc than anyone else. In reality, she is the true hero. The romance between her and Emmet is another trope played off for a joke. Emmet is a bumbling idiot while Wyldstyle is talented in almost every way, making them so incompatible that you can tell it was intentionally written into the film. This is making fun of characters in other movies who have no chemistry but are forcefully written into a romance together. I do have to say that Wyldstyle starts to become more generic during the third act, and I can definitely see why people would criticize the movie for it (I won’t spoil the ending).

Overall I would say that Lord and Miller did a great job with making fun of all of these tropes, mostly due to the irony and the genuine chemistry between the characters. In lesser movies that have these cliches un-ironically, it’s really distracting and takes away so much from the quality of the end product (a recent example of a weak romance and generic “you are the chosen one” story would be DC’s Aquaman). And it seems like The LEGO Movie 2 will address the ending issue with Wyldstyle’s character, based off of the trailers. The LEGO Movie was and still is a surprise hit. It succeeds in being a entertaining comedy with some unexpected social commentary hidden underneath, while also being a brilliant commercial that perfectly captures the joy of building with LEGOs. It makes fun of common tropes by exaggerating them and undercutting any potential serious moments with a constant stream of good humor, which is impressive for a family animated movie. Older audiences and younger audiences will have the same amount of enjoyment watching this movie, but for completely different reasons. Despite some small problems I personally have, this is a highly re-watchable film and I strongly recommend it to anyone who, for some reason, hasn’t seen it yet. 9/10