Cool Things: The Lego Movie

Confession time: I was fully prepared to hate this movie.

This is mainly due to my viewing the trailer and assuming that, as is so often the case, I’d seen the best parts of the movie. It turns out that not only is this not the case, it’s so far from the truth as to be kind of laughable. The biggest misconception the trailer gives is that this is a movie about Legos. It is not.

The Lego Movie is a film about people playing with Legos. This makes all the difference.

I have fond memories of playing with Legos when I was young (and when I was not so young and I anticipate doing it some more when my niece gets older) so I remember the fun of mashing all the pieces together and making something cool. Essentially, that’s what The Lego Movie is all about.

Yes, it’s true that the movie leans on a lot (too many, in my opinion) of stupid pop-culture references that won’t make sense to much of anyone in five years. But even if you took all those away you would have a solid and meaningful movieĀ  that works on two levels.

The first level is the story of Emmett. Emmett is a Lego construction worker who lives in a world of Legos. Every day he gets up, pulls out his instruction book and does exactly what’s expected of him. He goes through the same routine, builds the buildings, listens to the proscribed music and works for the totalitarian government of Lord Business – we’ve been here before, right? There’s really no need to rehash the plot, you’ve seen it at least a dozen times.

What sets Emmett’s half of the story apart are a couple of things. First, Emmett is (mostly) humble. He’s told he’s “the special” but has a hard time seeing it, since most of the people he’s working with are so much more experienced and skillful than he is (and let’s face it, one of those people is Batman.) But more than that, what’s impressive is Emmett’s ability to work with the Master Builders.

These are the heroes of the Lego world, people who can take the parts around them and build new and amazing things out of them. Emmer’s told he must be one but he can’t figure out how to do what they do. Ironically it will turn out to be Emmett’s ability to get the other Master Builders to work together in spite of their quirks and follow the directions no matter how much they dislike the limits on their creativity that is his greatest strength.

Ultimately we find that it’s not creativity or a lack thereof that’s making things difficult for people in Lego Land. You see there’s more to it than just a case of an overbearing would-be dictator. There’s also the Man Upstairs – which is to say, the people who are playing with the Legos. The Lego Movie is also about a man and his son, both of whom love Legos.

Unfortunately, the grown man has come to see Legos as his way to control his life – if things aren’t exactly as he wants them he flips out (we never see this behavior directly but that’s how Lord Business reacts and the two are obviously meant to reflect one another.) His son, on the other hand, clearly admires everything his father is capable of and just wants to join him in the fun, in his own way.

The two stories parallel one another to a conclusion that is both satisfying and, better yet, reflective of real life. Emmett and his human friend don’t triumph over their antagonists, they convince them to have a change of heart. And that is a true victory.

So, much to my surprise the story was awesome. So was seeing all the Lego guys running around doing their Lego things. A brilliant bit of humor comes from the addition of non-Lego things to the Lego world, like Lord Business’ ultimate weapon, the Kraggle (a tube of Krazy Glue that has gunk over a few of the letters) or the sword of Exact Zero (the blade tip of an X-acto knife.)

The various cameos by other franchises like Star Wars or the DC Superheroes don’t really add a whole lot to the movie (other than the Millennium Falcon’s conveniently providing a MacGuffin) but neither do they really harm the story, either. They’re just sort of there and most people will probably be able to live with that. The pop culture throwaway lines are dead weight but they don’t harm the story much.

The biggest strike against the movie is it’s pace – it’s aimed primarily at kids with short attention spans so it jumps from one thing to another at a rate that’s going to be too fast for some people to be fully comfortable with.

The Lego Movie is a CG film that’s aiming to duplicate Legos, so it’s not breaking any ground in the cinematography department, but I will say both the zany action sequences and the building sequences, both of which play out in the same kind of rapid fire real time that you used to see in Lego commercials, are a huge joy to watch. And the movie has a very catchy soundtrack with one song in particular that you, like the Lego people, will probably have to live with all day for at least one day. Whether you enjoy it or not is up to you.

In all, The Lego Movie is a great film for all ages, so long as you won’t have a seizure from the frequently breathless pacing. So go check it out and relive – or discover, or just plunge deeper into – the joy of Legos.