“The LEGO Movie” Review (2D)

The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie

– for mild action and rude humor.
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum, Charlie Day, Jonah Hill, Anthony Daniels, Cobie Smulders, Billy Dee Williams, Shaquille O’Neal
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: February 7, 2014
Official Site

The LEGO Movie

Plot Summary
The original 3D computer animated story follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.
(from MovieWeb.com)

Film Review
If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, there’s a real good chance you played with LEGO building blocks at some point. Before offering branded sets for franchises from Disney and movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and more, LEGO sets were more broadly themed — from basic town and city sets to knights, pirates, and the Old West. In recent years, the popularity (ahem, and price) of the LEGO brand has soared with the success of sets like Star Wars, DC and Marvel superheroes, Ninjago, and the branching out into video games and short films. So, when it was announced that LEGO would make its big screen debut, with the promise that everything in the film would be made from LEGO pieces, it probably came as little to no shock to anyone. But when the names of Phil Lord and Chris Miller–who directed the hilarious first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs–were attached to direct, there was certainly a lot of promise backing the film.

The LEGO Movie opens in a world not unlike something found in the imagination of a child (or a LEGO catalog). Using familiar pieces, sets, and characters, we see a city of LEGO characters and pieces going about their daily routines in a fantastical happy-go-lucky universe (All singing the impossibly catchy “Everything is Awesome” theme song). However, this universe is being threatened, unbeknownst to our film’s hero, Emmet, by a villain called Lord Business who controls most of the LEGO city and is hatching an evil plan that will doom them all. Emmet’s daily routine is especially ordinary, but when he meets the mysterious and alluring Wyldstyle, their chance encounter leads him to stumble upon a mystical place underground that hold within its glowing bricks an object that is to latch itself onto “the chosen one” who will save the LEGO city from Lord Business. Once Emmet is caught up in the insanity surrounding this coveted object, he’s pursued by one of Lord Business’s head minions, Bad Cop. As Bad Cop and a horde of evil robots chase Emmet and Wyldstyle around this LEGO universe, the two encounter the likes of a wizard named Vitruvius, a gigantic pirate robot, a unicorn kitty (named Unikitty, of course), the Harlem Globetrotters, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, 1980s LEGO spaceman, and many, many other memorable LEGO characters.

One thing that was gut-bustingly funny about the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film was its inherent random humor. It was quick, out of left field, and almost always laugh-out-loud funny. Not surprisingly, The LEGO Movie is built on the same kind of humor, and it works – beautifully. Given that it’s a movie based around small toy building blocks, it pretty much needs to be random and funny, otherwise it’s nothing more than an hour-and-forty-minute commercial for LEGO. And, while it kind of is (in the same way that the G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons of the 80s pretty much existed to sell the accompanying toys…but were still awesome in their own right), a wealth of new and recognizable characters, and Hollywood celebrity voice actors, unite for a super fun outing on a huge scale. What you might not expect, however, is that although the movie is animated with computer animation for the imaginary LEGO world, there are some scenes that feature real life (AKA “live action”) LEGO footage that fits really well into the plot of the film, but may be jarring to some viewers who were fully immersed in the CG animated LEGO universe and then had been suddenly ripped from it. All of it adds up to a message that encourages viewers to pursue their creativity and not always “follow the instructions.” It’s a slightly ironic message for a toy brand that primarily sells very specific, calculated sets that come with instructions, but it gets back to the roots of why LEGO began in the first place.

Chris Pratt, of TV’s Parks and Recreation, voices the lead character Emmet Brickowski with a brilliant everyday-man kind of feel (and reminds me a bit of Patton Oswalt at times), but his delivery is also spot-on for keeping the character fun and silly. Elizabeth Banks is also wonderful as Wyldstyle, and Will Arnett is perfect as a tongue-in-cheek take on Batman. Given that Warner Bros. is behind this particular film, it’s pretty funny to see all DC comics superheroes making appearances, but it also explains why not a single Disney or Marvel character shows up. However, they still manage to work in some other surprise cameos that just add to the hilarity and fun (even if you wish they’d tag along for the journey). Finally, the villain is voiced by a slightly more subdued Will Ferrell who once again makes a great on-screen comedic bad guy (he’s more like his Zoolander character than Megamind here). And Liam Neeson is delightfully brilliant as Good Cop/Bad Cop. Every scene he’s in is just gold.

The content for this PG-rated is a bit edgy in a violent sense. I watched the film without my 3-year-old son present and I think, although he loves Planes, Frozen and even The Incredibles, he may find some scenes pretty scary in The LEGO Movie. Lord Business’s evil robot minions are rather creepy looking and their eyes glow red at times. Then there are at least two “hallucination” scenes which are distorted and maybe a little unsettling for little viewers who won’t really understand what’s happening. The moments themselves are actually pretty harmless–the first being when Emmet touches the mysterious object in the spooky underground cave which causes flashes of random images to zip by and then he wakes up in police custody. There’s also a lot of explosions and LEGO pieces flying all over the place, laser fights and big portions of cities or worlds being destroyed. One scene shows a city being blown up by Lord Business’s minions and then we see it sinking into the ocean with pieces dramatically sinking in an underwater view. At one point, one character is beheaded (in true LEGO minifig fashion) and we see the character’s head talk briefly before dying. They then show up again as a LEGO ghost. Another scene shows a character erase their face. Later, they draw a semi-creepy scribble of a smiley face on it instead. Unikitty, who is unbelievably positive, fights having negative feelings or getting angry in a couple scenes and that might be a little frightening to some viewers as her face turns red and fierce and she starts eating the robots. It’s all meant to be funny, though. Finally, there is no profanity, but there is some rude humor (like in the first Cloudy movie), and even one scene shows some LEGO robot figures photocopying their butts. Obviously, that sounds and looks ridiculous because there’s no nudity or anything, but it’s just an example of the “rude humor” herein (but that gag was used much more “explicitly” by the minions in Despicable Me).

Fans of LEGO bricks, creative visuals and random humor won’t want to miss this movie. It has a couple moments that start to lag just a tad, but for the most part, it’s just constant fun. It’s probably a little too frenetic and crazy for the younger ones, but it’s mostly harmless fun with any violence only ever involving LEGO pieces flying apart or being thrown around. This is one the adults and kids can enjoy together… and be warned: if you have a history with LEGO, this movie will make you want to break out those colorful little pieces and start building once again!
John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/8/14)


Parental Guide: Content Summary
. Sex/Nudity: There’s a show called “Where Are My Pants?” and at least three times we see a male LEGO figure with yellow legs and a small white waist piece that is supposed to be underwear as he says, “Honey, where are my pants?” which is always played for laughs; Two robot LEGO figures see a copy machine and decide to print out scans of their LEGO butts. The print just looks like the backside of any LEGO mini figure

. Vulgarity/Language: None. (Just uses of “darn” and “gosh”)

. Alcohol/Drugs: In an Old West scene, some characters have bottles in a saloon.

. Blood/Gore: Lord Business beheads a LEGO character and we see their head roll on the floor. They continue to talk before their eyes become “X’s” and then they die. We soon see them return as a ghost LEGO figure.

. Violence: LOTS and LOTS of action violence involving LEGO pieces. Some of it includes: A prolonged sequence of Bad Cop angrily throwing a chair (as a recurring joke); Lord Business uses the KraGle to cement characters in place, much to the horror of the victims. These scenes might be a little intense to some viewers; Lord Business wields an Xacto knife blade at one point and uses it to behead a character and we see their head roll on the floor. They continue to talk before their eyes become “X’s” and then they die. We soon see them return as a ghost LEGO figure; Lots of scenes feature ships flying around and shooting at characters and chasing them, etc. We see a city get destroyed, with LEGO flames and bricks blowing apart, etc. Some characters are seen fighting with each other, there are a couple chase scenes with vehicles, and we see many of the good characters are captured and are imprisoned on a wall; A spaceship zips through other ships and buildings, destroying them; A big pirate ship sinks and it’s assumed that everyone on it died, but we see that a couple character survived.

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