Sunday 16 February 2014

The Lego Movie (2014) - Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Let's not lie, Lego is quite clearly the greatest toy to be invented.  As a child I spent hours meticulously following the instructions of each set (Merlin's castle, obviously), attending to every detail, before setting them aside and...looking at them.

It turns out I've been doing it wrong.  Like me, the protagonist of The Lego Movie Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt) is an adamant follower of the rules.  In fact, his whole life is one long instruction manual with numbered steps for each part of his day.  However, when he's singled out as the 'chosen one' to lead a rebellion against the tyrannical Lord Business (assisted by Wyldstyle - Elizabeth Banks - a sort of hoodied Lego version of Trinity from The Matrix), his structured life is thrown into disarray as the fate of the highly segregated world hangs on his (lack of) creative thinking.

You see, to be a proper Master Builder is to throw away the instructions and use your imagination, mixing and matching from the various 'realms' to create something entirely unique - even if the very thought of that sends your yellow plastic head into a spin.  Of course, you could see the narrative as a metaphor for a modern world of corporate brands and robotic thinking (even the pre-film adverts are remade in Lego blocks), but mostly The Lego Movie is a charming celebration of childhood innocence and creativity.

The narrative, too, rarely follows the rules, instead subverting the usual movie tropes.  Just as with the successful and hilarious video game franchise, the film is one long movie and comic book parody.  No brick is left unturned in the film's pursuit of comedy, resulting in a genuinely funny script with a witty layer of depth that adults will certainly appreciate.  Liam Neeson is instantly recognisable as the Janus-like Bad Cop, as is Morgan Freeman as the godlike Vitruvius and Will Ferrell as Lord Business.  Yet there are plenty more literal nods to the likes of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and DC comic characters (most of all Will Arnett's hilarious Batman - "I only work with black blocks"), whilst the overall plot is a not so subtle send-up of The Matrix.  At the centre of it all is Pratt as the goofy everyman Emmet - a perfect piece of casting following his role in US comedy Parks & Recreation.

It's the visuals that delight most of all though.  Part stop-motion and part CGI, the effect is seamless and wonderfully detailed.  Absolutely everything is built from those tiny blocks, from the buildings and scenery, to fluid oceans and fiery explosions.  There's a beautiful sense of chaos to the visuals, each set-piece full of anarchic joy.  Everything can be destroyed and re-built, from motorbikes to flying craft, pirate ships and spaceships, whilst our bunch of heroes are chased by robotic skeletons, laser-shooting sharks and more.  The film is, quite literally, an insight into the mind of a child, a world where the possibilities of creation are endless, not limited by walls, glue or instruction manuals but by your imagination.  In the words of Tegan and Sara's earworm of a theme song, "everything is awesome".