Lego is, of course, awesome, so it didn’t surprise me in the least when The Lego Movie turned out to be equally as awesome as the plastic bricks on which it’s based. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Southern Cowboys dying of AIDS as much as the next person, but I think those little guys made of plastic have come out on top, this time. While it’s great to have a little cry, explore issues of race, class and gender, and see films that make you appear instantly more intelligent, during awards season it’s too easy to get bogged down in films that are nothing but dreary Oscarbait. I’ve seen a number of the big hitters recently – 12 Years A Slave, Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle – and if I’m being honest, I’d be quite content if I didn’t watch these films again for a long time. This isn’t a reflection on their quality; in fact, all three of them are masterfully done. But so too was The Lego Movie, in a different way. Furthermore, I want to watch it again. Now.
The Lego Movie beautifully employs CG animation to construct a world made entirely out of Lego blocks. The population of this plastic metropolis are the traditional yellow figurines which are instantly recognisable around the world. We are presented with a city that runs like a well-oiled machine – the inhabitants all wake up at the same time, eating, washing, and cheerfully exclaiming ‘Good morning!’ to the world from their little plastic windows. Our hero is a smiling construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt), content to follow the rules of his world, the rules set forth by President Business (Will Ferrell), inevitably the bad guy. Soon, Emmet, having stayed late at his construction site, falls down a mysterious hole simultaneously fulfilling a prophecy foretold by Vitruvius the wizard (Morgan Freeman). He falls headlong into adventure.
The vocal cast is a selection of some of America’s finest comedic actors today: Elizabeth Banks plays the mysterious love interest Wyldstlyle, while Will Arnett, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie co-star as Batman, Metal Beard and Unikitty. Liam Neeson provides some laughs in the role of Good Cop/Bad Cop, the sometimes good, but more often bad, dispenser of the law. This is a movie brimming with jokes, from snappy one-liners to clever physical comedy that isn’t restrained by its setting in the brick-built world of Lego. It may also be the only Hollywood film that will ever be able to pull together such a range of big-name characters – Gandalf, Dumbledore, Superman, Wonder Woman and Shaquille O’Neal to name but a few – all to the benefit of the story.
The story-line is simple and recognisable: we are presented with a hero who must overcome evil whilst at the same time becoming the unlikely leader he was destined to be. But ultimately, the film invites us to ask what Lego has come to mean to us today. Is Lego a pre-packaged toy that comes with intricate instructions of how to build particular objects, or is it a series of individual building blocks that are there to create whatever we choose? The film falls somewhere in between, leaving us with the idea that Lego can be whatever we want it to be. While it might not sweep up at this season’s Oscars, it shouldn’t be overlooked that this is a well told story about creativity, childhood and what it means to grow up. A noble sentiment, I think, for a film with a ‘U’ certificate.