I’ll be the first to admit that I’m really not the biggest Lego fan. Not in terms of the constructive toy, of course—but a while back it really started to disturb me that there was a Lego version of practically everything, and that Lego versions of popular media properties had their own separate fans. The fact that there are people who like Lego Indiana Jones completely apart from the filmed character is just plain odd to me.
That said, if you like fun, you’ll probably really enjoy The LEGO Movie. And then you’ll be terrified at what you just bought into.
Spoilers below for the film.
To briefly recap the basics of the film, there’s a really boring Lego construction worker named Emmett who works in a giant Lego city where everything is sort of vacant and by-the-numbers. He accidentally finds an item called “The Piece of Resistance” (yes, you read that right) and finds out that there’s a prophecy about him—he is meant to be The Special, a person who stops the evil President Business from destroying all of Lego-dom with The Kragle.
What you realize as a human is that Kragle is simply Krazy Glue with some letters scratched off, and that the famed Piece is simply the cap to it. Wyldstyle, the action-lady Lego who saves Emmett from immediate destruction, explains that all the Lego dimensions used to bleed together and the Master Builders (cool Legos with ideas!) just created whatever they wanted all the time. When President Business came into power, he walled off all the dimensions into separate areas, got rid of the Master Builders, and is planning to use the Kragle to freeze all Legos permanently like a monument. After lots of adventures, it seems as though Emmett is bound to fail in his mission to stop President Business, but we’re finally shown the other side of the reality wall…
It turns out that all these Lego dimensions were created and owned by one dad, and his son keeps trying to rearrange things, to build something new. Dad is determined to model up-to-spec manual-perfect Lego worlds and make them permanent with the use of super glue. But when he gets a better look at his son’s creations, he realizes that he’s missing something and has a change of heart. He asks his son what Emmett would say to President Business, and his son tells him that he would say Business doesn’t have to be a villain. That they could play and build and that everyone had the ability to be The Special. Dad and his son begin playing together.
Yes, the realization of the plot is bound to make you teary. You spend the movie waiting for the reveal (it’s clearly coming from the beginning), and it really doesn’t disappoint. Frankly, we’ve all seen it; even if you have no children of your own, most of us have witnessed parents trying to “teach” their children how to properly play with toys. As though there is anything proper or teachable about creativity and play in the first place.
There’s a lot of smart humor packed into this script, which is the number one selling point of the film, and makes it great for both kids and adults. The city Emmett occupies is a horrifying comment on mundane and everyday modern living. Workers do everything by the manual, complete menial tasks with the help of a single brainwashing pop tune, and everyone watches the same crap TV show every day (aptly titled “Where Are My Pants?” which feels like every horrible sitcom ever).
Because Lego has so many licensing deals, lots of great characters pop up in the film, most of them DC superheroes with a few memorable Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter cameos thrown in for fun. Batman takes up the majority of licensed screentime because he’s Wyldstyle’s boyfriend. What’s great about this version of Batman is that he’s written like every crack fanfic and goofy internet comic come to life—the parody of a parody of Batman. He plays a song for Wyldstyle that he wrote for her “about how he’s an orphan.” Everything has to be built as a bat-version of whatever it’s meant to be. And he’s given all the best incredulous one-liners the script has to offer. In other DC news, Green Lantern is basically treated like the weird annoying cousin that no one wants to be seen with, which is particularly scathing after his solo box office bomb. Liam Neeson has the most fun in this movie by just being himself to the max as Bad Cop/Good Cop.
The movie does accidentally highlight some of the biggest problems with the Lego brand, however. The lack of female mini-figs means that there are basically only two female characters in a script full of men, and one of them is a unikitty. (Although Unikitty is totally awesome.) While Batman is great, Wonder Woman makes an appearance only to be immediately packed away. Diversity isn’t big either, but we do at least have Morgan Freeman voicing the Wise Guide role. The nostalgia button gets hit hard in this movie as well with classic figures and sets—which is a very clear technique being employed to distract from the most disturbing aspect of this theater-going experience…
The most unsettling factor about the movie overall, is that it is ultimately one giant commercial. No matter how fun or clever the script is, you cannot escape the fact that this is a film about why Legos are awesome and why you should want to play with them. The message the story drives home is wrapped up in that advertisement, all down to how special we are for having imaginations that allow us to build great things… out of Legos. A child isn’t going to be bothered by it, but adults will have a hard time ignoring it (especially when a viewing leads to a demand for more Legos, which it very likely will). There are certainly much scarier brands that could make a movie like this, but that doesn’t soothe the awkwardness of the ploy.
Basically, they got you to pay money to watch a one hundred minute commercial. They got you to do it, and like it.
Look, we all know that a majority of kid’s films are made with merchandising in mind. Disney has already got loads of figures, stuffed animals, and collectables ready for every animated film they release. But at least the stuff comes after in that case. Watching a movie about Legos makes you realize this can be done in reverse, and it can be done well.
And that may make for some very scary movies in our future.