New Lord and Miller animated hit pays homage to one of the world’s most popular toys.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative pair behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and 21 Jump Street (2012), just released their third feature film, The Lego Movie, to surprising acclaim. As far as today’s animated fare goes, The Lego Movie is good but as far as comparisons go, it still falls short of the bulk of Pixar’s magnificent body of work.
Standout elements include a stellar voice cast and the movie’s plot: The story plays like a stream of consciousness from any given youngster at his/her creative peak, fine-tuned to deliver a moral that champions the value of creativity.
One way in which The Lego Movie does manage to measure up to Pixar and some of the best classic Disney animation is its ability to provide laughs for young and old audience members alike. Few movies in recent years have moved at such a breathlessly rapid tempo as this, and when packing as many in-jokes and slapstick gags into the movie as they did, Lord and Miller pulled off a kind of frenzied juggling act.
In keeping up such quick pacing, however, flaws arose. The Lego Movie may be one of the brightest, flashiest movies I’ve ever seen. This worked to its advantage for the most part, like during the film’s many near-instantaneous Lego-building sequences. So impressive is the animation here that a majority of audience members and I couldn’t help but laugh in wonderment. However, when the story called for a break from the ostentatious visuals to help it move along, Lord and Miller did not abide until a problematic sequence near the end of the film.
Throughout the first act of the movie the audience is taken on an odyssey fuelled by manic creativity. It’s a lot of fun. If you spent a good amount of time around a Lego bin during your childhood, it’s easy to see how much of a labour of love this project was to the people who made it.
Already The Lego Movie has been called “a one hundred-minute commercial,” and at times it can seem to reek of something close to product placement. However, it is not product placement but is closer to a Community-like approach to referential pop culture humour. The appearances of brands and franchises are affectations of the G-rated Orwellian universe the movie’s set in, nothing more. Any notion of product placement falls flat in a movie whose villain is called Lord Business (Will Ferrell.)
The story takes a couple of shaky steps deeper into the movie, when its pace could’ve slowed, stepped back, and allowed its characters to step out in front of their blindingly bright settings and speak a bit more for themselves. However, like impatient children playing with Legos, Lord and Miller thrust new challenges upon the characters and equally original methods of escape or diversion are needed to secure survival. That said, children will have a terrific time watching this movie. And I liked the element of unpredictability to it—it made its being titled The Lego Movie more sincere than any ‘classic’ plot line could have.
There is a final, live-action sequence that lends a heart and centre to the film. It’s as inventive as anything that appears onscreen before it. However, it follows an animated sequence that might cause viewers to question whether the movie understands its own moral. It’s a movie about using one’s creative powers to triumph over an authoritarian command, but it mixes its messages in telling us that following instructions is the difference-maker, when the chips are down. I understand as well as any other adult audience member that creativity and following regulations both have their place in success, but it’s the younger viewers I’m worried about.