Review: The LEGO® Movie
Few movies seem as destined to be watched while thoroughly baked as The LEGO® Movie, a heap of pop culture references, self-conflicting philosophy and swirling colors the likes of which product placement hasn’t seen since Gaspar Noé directed Kevin Smith’s script for The Skittles® Movie, or maybe that only happened in my head.
This is what happens when you green light a movie based entirely on selling a god damned toy and give it to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors who took the plotless Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and adapted it into a manic George Pal/Roland Emmerich/Marx Bros. routine about a sardine island covered in apocalyptic comestibles by a mad scientist with invulnerable shoes. For that I suppose we should be thankful, for at least they took the vague concept of “everything is LEGO®” and ran with it until their hearts stopped.
The LEGO® Movie takes place in a land where everything is, indeed, made of LEGO®. There, a society of folks who live by the rules and follow the instructions on the box is thrown into chaos by a team of “Master Builders” who rip apart the environment around them to make Road Warrior battle vehicles and tear asunder the fabric of society. Said society is run by the evil, conformity-obsessed “President Business,” voiced by Will Ferrell.
President Business has an ancient artifact that can glue every piece of LEGO® together and prevent these Master Builders from practicing their creativity. As such, it seems like The LEGO® Movie has a pretty unassailable message until you remember that this anarchy has been sponsored by a corporate giant spending millions of dollars to make sure their core demographic exercises free will entirely within the confines of their easily purchased playsets.
The only person who can stop President Business is Emmet Brickowski, voiced by Chris Pratt, who is the most boring person alive until he discovers that he’s “The Chosen One,” and destined to become the most interesting person alive. He’s not a Master Builder. He only knows how to follow those rules. But he joins a ragtag team of misfits including Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Abraham Lincoln – presumably on loan from The Lincoln Log® Movie – to put an end to President Business’s tyranny.
As the swirling vortex of multi-colored plastic bricks unfurls with a mighty flush and the universe recreates itself to suit its own needs you will probably notice a dull roar overtaking your brain. Kids, this is what drugs are like. The interconnectivity of all things will temporarily make you believe that String Theory is a perfectly valid idea. The fact that defeating President Business requires everyone to abandon their individuality and conform to the rules will seem a like brilliant piece of irony instead of an excruciating contradiction. The film’s conclusion that Tegan and Sara & Lonely Island’s horrifyingly Orwellian theme song “Everything is AWESOME!!!” is in fact a terrible bit of music will be completely lost on you because it actually sounds kind of awesome. After the movie you will play it on repeat over and over again until you realize that outside the specific context of The LEGO® Movie it is completely insufferable, and then you will never, ever play it again.
But damn them, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller don’t know how to make a movie boring. The LEGO® Movie crackles with a madcap energy, grounded with just enough innocent pseudo-sincerity that actually watching it doesn’t make your brain die. If anything, it’s so much better than you would expect a LEGO® movie to be that you just might get forget that it's a bizarre hodgepodge of clever ideas and whimsy forged within the strict guidelines of an admittedly brilliant marketing ploy. President Business might not admit it, but I suspect that he’s secretly pleased.