Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directing an animated cartoon based on Lego blocks does not seem like a really promising concept. There is no plot associated with the plastic blocks. That left writers Dan and Kevin Hagemand a lot of freedom to create a story that might go on in the mind of a youngster playing with the blocks. The film it turns into is creative, but your mileage may vary on whether it is really funny and/or really entertaining. This is a film more to be admired for what it was trying to do than for what it actually accomplished.
Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
When I was young we had as toys Lincoln Logs and later plastic bricks and still later we had Erector Sets. I never had Lego, but the idea was the same. You were given the tools to build something, but you had to think of the something and that was good. It stretched my imagination. Lincoln Logs never made much but little log cabins. But with the bricks I used to make missile launchers in a way that the toymaker probably never thought of. Erector sets were the best because there were so many different things to be made with them.
That was what set these kits apart from toy cars that would do one thing only, run across the floor and stop when they hit a wall. Constructor sets were a challenge to the imagination and that was the spirit behind Lego also. That spirit has kept Lego on the market for several decades and that was the spirit that is celebrated in ‘The Lego Movie’.
The basic plot of the story is not really important. The plot changes every minute or so as it is told to mimic the creative but wandering mind of a child playing with Lego figures. Suffice it to say that in a fantasy Lego kingdom there is an all-powerful weapon called the ‘Kragle’ and power-hungry Lord Business wants to own this weapon.
He cannot be stopped, but there is a prophecy that there will be a ‘special’ warrior who will stop him. Flash forward a few years and we focus on Emmet Brickowoski, a faceless construction worker who is anything but ‘special’. His favorite song is ‘Everything Is Awesome’, though Emmet is kept ignorant as to what is and is not ‘awesome’. Emmet is pulled into a great Tolkien-like conflict trying to use something called a ‘Piece of Resistance’ to stop Business from using the Kragle.
Using Lego figures for animation has its up side and its down side. The figures are rigid except for a small number of joints. I would imagine it requires much less computer manipulation to create Lego figures on the screen because the motion and shaping is so limited. When you have dozens or hundreds of figures in a single scene, which probably saves a great deal of computing. On the other hand, the rigidity allows little subtle expression in the faces of the characters.
It takes a lot of computing to create a believable little girl in a film like ‘Frozen’. The characters in ‘The Lego Movie’ move like robots. The sets and scenes of the film look like they are assembled from a huge Lego set and they were. It was just a digital virtual Lego set. That opens the way for many creative ideas. Who would have thought that the smoke and fire from and explosion could be implemented with Lego blocks?
The screenplay by Dan and Kevin Hagemand, as directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, keeps up a steady stream of jokes. I found myself laughing twice or maybe three times. However, it may not have been just my breed of humor and my audience seemed to be enjoying the quips. The pacing and style was like tracking the stream of thought of a ten year-old playing with action figures, many made from Lego blocks. That keeps the film both fast-paced and superficial.
‘The Lego Movie’ may be right in its theme song lyric (which it hits you over the head) that ‘everything is awesome’. (Richard Feynman would have agreed.) I am afraid that for me this film was not quite awesome. But even if the humor did not strike me, for creativity the film earns a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2014