What do Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation, Gob from Arrested Development, and Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have in common? Well it turns out they’re all played by real people known as “AC-tors” who often take roles in other screen and stage projects… like The Lego Movie!
Yes, somehow the Lego brand has managed to morph from children’s toy staple into a full-fledged entertainment brand, complete with video games and theme parks. And if you’re as baffled as I am at that, it’s about to get worse, because Lego’s first real foray into a full-length Hollywood film actually does more to cement that brand than hurt it.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are two of the best directors in comedy, producing one of my all-time favourite animated movies Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Add to that a cast stocked to the brim with voice talent – Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, just to name a few – and frankly this was going to be a pretty good movie Lego or not…
But that’s not to take away from what Lego does bring to the table here. Besides the obvious our-world-is-made-of-Lego jokes that upon first viewing just seemed inevitable, using a Lego world as a starting point allows for characters as disparate as Batman, Abe Lincoln, and Shakespeare to exist in the same room in a plausible manner.
What that leads to is the ability to parody just about every historical figure or movie franchise Lego can get its hand on. And trust me, it’s awesome.
Of course, the main character of The Lego Movie, Emmet (Chris Pratt), is about as generic as they come, a rather hilarious running joke mined for laughs throughout the movie. He lives in a town run by President Business (Will Ferrell), who demands absolute conformity. Every simple task from waking up in the morning to hanging out with friends involves an elaborate set of instructions… like real Lego!
This doesn’t sit too well with a group of Master Builders – Lego men and women who can produce elaborate and unique pieces of machinery without any instructions at all – who are struggling to keep imagination a part of the Lego world. They search for the Special, a character foretold to possess the power to stop President Business’ secret weapon, the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue), which he plans to use to end the world on Taco Tuesday.
The film takes a little time to get going. The first 20 minutes or so aren’t as funny as I would have liked. But it makes up for it once we meet our collection of Master Builders. Listening to Chris Pratt’s simple Emmet play off this diverse cast of hyper-intense characters is one of the real joys of the movie.
It’s not too big a mystery why Phil Lord and Chris Miller keep getting these animated projects – they have a delightfully irreverent sense of humour that seems more suited to cartoons than to living, breathing actors.
But anyone who can make a hilarious spectacle out of a character repeatedly crashing down objects while at the same time debuting Batman’s brooding song writing has my money, children’s movie or not.
My only real complaint about The Lego Movie is that thematically it gets lost in the shuffle at times, trying to teach a few more lessons than it can properly do credit. In the end, it doesn’t matter that much as it all coalesces into a largely sweet and poignant finish. But there were moments in the middle where it seemed the film was trying to make a point and it just wasn’t coming across.
That or I’m just the idiot who can’t follow a children’s movie. It’s possible.
Regardless, perhaps the greatest strength of the Lego brand is its ability to appeal to both the young and old alike. Almost everyone has played with Lego at some point in their life.
The Lego Movie has such a great sense of that experience from little things like the dead on broken helmet of a generic 80s astronaut to the types of random objects you find at the bottom of a Lego box – the jokes end up feeling almost universal.
With the quality of its voice cast, the hilarity of its writing, and the nostalgia that comes with the Lego brand, The Lego Movie has proven itself much more than simply a feature length toy commercial.
Something tells me Hollywood isn’t quite done with these colourful little block characters yet.