The Lego Movie

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UK Release Date 14th February 2014
Director Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pratt
Runtime 100 Minutes
Certificate U
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 9th February 2014

We’ve been suckers for action figure cash-ins for  a long while now. Films or more often TV shows created with the sole purpose of selling you or your kids toys of dubious origin (and in some cases sexuality - step forward He-Man). The latest from the team that bought you Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs could so easily have been another in this undistinguished line. It SO isn’t.

We’ve been looking forward to The Lego Movie since we first clapped eyes on a trailer featuring Batman, Wonderwoman, Green Lantern and Benny the 80’s Spaceman. The detail in the animation and the inspired casting of Will Arnett as Batman made this look like something special. The movie tells the often recounted tale of a nobody who becomes somebody through a series of events not of their choosing. In this case it is ordinary construction worker Emmet Brickowoski. Living a comfortably numb life of following instructions (that is literally following a book of instructions), going to work, being overly cheery and sharing breakfast regularly with his house plant. Regular stimulus in the form of over-expensive coffee ($37!) and hit (in fact only) TV show ‘Where are my pants’ (sole gag - man walks on screen, shouts ‘where are my pants’ as camera zooms out to reveal he is not wearing pants - cue hilarity and rapturous applause) distract Emmet long enough from such deep questions as what does President Business mean when he says behave or you’ll be put to sleep in amongst an otherwise cheery commercial for Taco Tuesday.

All of this harmony starts to come crashing down though as loner Emmet witnesses a foxy figure digging around in the building site he works at whilst not wearing authorised clothing. Emmet gives chase and ends up encountering a maguffin that makes said female Wyldestyle believe him to be the Special. Soon Emmet is whisked off and he is forced to confront his blank imagination and start to take actions that for once will impact on other people.

The Lego Movie is an absolute marvel of utterly bonkers imagination-bursting energy. Like a young child blessed with an adult’s knowledge of movies and an infinite supply of fizzy pop, it flies from one nuts idea to the other, never stopping to catch its breath. That it manages to keep this pace up for 100 minutes is impressive in itself. That it manages to do it without resorting to meaningless filler is something else.

The cast have an absolute whale of a time with their characters. Chris Pratt arguably gets the bum deal, getting both the leading role and the movie’s main straight man, his Emmet is essential for grounding the movie but does tend to get sidelined by the others. Will Arnett’s Batman is brilliantly self obsessed and gravelly voiced, Elizabeth Banks suffers a little like Pratt with the main female role also being more of an anchor than a standout. Liam Neeson is perfectly cast as Bad Cop / Good Cop (same figure, different face), growling for all he’s worth and serially abusing any furniture that happens to be close by (brilliantly, because the chairs are only made of one pice of Lego, they physically can’t break so Bad Cop merely ends up kicking them around the room) and Morgan Freeman’s blind Vitruvius fills the mentor / Obi-Wan role. Will Ferrell completes the main cast with his actually pretty restrained (for him) Lord / President Business. The reason for the restraint appears late on but I won’t spoil that. The smaller roles really shine too. Joanah Hill’s useless Green Lantern is great chasing Batman around and trying to be friends and Charlie Day’s Benny the 80’s Spaceman is superb, especially when he finally does get to build that spaceship.

The attention to detail shown is nothing short of miraculous. Everything that happens is depicted in pieces of Lego. Turn the shower on, little round blue and white Lego pieces come out, set something on fire, a semi-opaque red plastic flame appears, blow something up and you get thousands of little pieces of Lego. Just superb. Even things you thought were peculiar to your Lego show up; Benny’s helmet has a broken chin-strap - just like yours did as a kid, the man focus on the ‘Special’ is a term for a piece of block that only served one purpose (if my memory serves) and when one of the Master Builders starts building, serial numbers for the relevant Lego sets flash up on the screen. Only people with an absolute love for the property could have put this together and it shows through in every, wonderfully bright, frame. It’s early in the year but I’d be astonished if we see a better animation this year and this one will surely feature at next year's Academy Awards.

Even the story itself stands up on its own two plastic legs. The theme is nothing particularly original but the last twenty minutes put a genuinely touching spin on the tale that I won’t go into here for fear of spoiler. After an hour or so of full throttle hilarity, it’s great that the filmmakers managed to weave in something with actual emotion without it grinding the whole thing to a halt. Released in time for the half term week here in the UK, The Lego Movie is going to be a huge hit and it deserves to be. Packing more ideas into 100 minutes than I ever thought was possible (The Millennium Falcon turns up at one stage out of nowhere, only to have it’s power source stolen leading to hilariously disastrous consequences) and keeping up an utterly crazy pace, the movie manages to be funny, heartfelt, bonkers, knowing and touching without ever resorting to base humour or sentimental tosh. It is a triumph on all levels. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be attempting to get that bloody techno-pop song out of my head whilst relaxing on my double-decker couch....…..’everything is awesome…..’  

Check out the trailer here.

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