When writing and directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were tapped to adapt children’s book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” into a feature-length film, it seemed impractical that a picture book devoid of a plot could work on the big screen. In the end, however, the film ended up being a critical and commercial hit, earning rave reviews and $124 million at the domestic box office.
The duo then made lightning strike twice, forging an uproarious comedy out of the melodramatic and kitschy television series “21 Jump Street,” which earned $138 million domestically and cemented the A-list status of stars Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.
In the tradition of their earlier work, Lord and Miller have brought their zany, acid-etched aesthetic to their riskiest project yet: “The LEGO Movie.” While Lego does not have a vast storybook concept or a procedural format when it comes to building the film, it does comes with a philosophy inherent in its, dare I say, construction. The film’s namesake toys allow for endless possibility, and it permeates every frame.
The story centers around Emmet (Chris Pratt), the epitome of the generic Lego person. Gleeful to a fault, Emmet carries on his days with blissful ignorance, ecstatic about being told what to do. All is well until Emmet is mixed into a web of conflict between the Master Builders, including the punk rock Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and blind sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), as well as President Business (Will Ferrell), who are all bent on engulfing the Lego world in crazy glue to prevent change.
If this in any way sounds like “The Matrix,” it is because the beats are quite similar. Both stories deal with the theme of enlightenment and freedom of thought, but while “The Matrix” presents its real world as a vast wasteland, “The LEGO Movie” dares to be beautiful. Every Lego world, each pulled straight from the history of the product line, is rendered brick by brick in stunning detail.
Just as much care was placed into the building of the Lego world as the story and characters, which are rich with depth typically absent from animated family fare. While the main cast of characters are given distinct personalities and motivations, “The LEGO Movie” is not afraid to let minor characters steal every scene in which they appear. From the comically brooding and intensely narcissistic depiction of Batman (Will Arnett) to the equally adorable and terrifying Unikitty (Alison Brie), there is not a single character that is not given worthy treatment.
“The LEGO Movie” works not only because it’s genuinely hysterical and visually stunning — because it is very much those things. But there is more to it than that. The film’s third act, which is equal parts touching and unexpected, ends up changing the audience’s perception of all that comes before it which gives the film surprising emotional heft. Overall, “The LEGO Movie” commands multiple viewings to absorb its intricacies and deserves to not have its more staggering elements spoiled.
The skepticism many feel regarding “The LEGO Movie” is justified; there is no way a movie based on nothing but a set of building blocks should be this good. But, believe the hype. Not only is this the best possible version of a movie based on Legos, it is one of the best animated films in ages.
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