It seems natural to see franchise figurines populate the shop shelves in the wake of a successful film, but there is something impulsively off-putting about seeing the journey in reverse. When toys make the transition from shelf to screen, we brace ourselves for exasperation, because these types of films have a tendency to be uninspired things, leaving kids momentarily satiated and parents monetarily emaciated. Couple that with the fact that Lego is the marmite of playthings – with people either becoming hooked by its geeky expansiveness, or being repelled by its banality – and you would easily be forgiven for thinking that The Lego Movie would be one to overlook. Luckily the realised product is a world apart from the imagined one.
Written and directed by the team responsible for the kid-friendly Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the not so kid-friendly 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie occupies a space somewhere in between (and high above) their previous features. It is a colourful, frenetic, sugar-high of a film that is laced with volleys of on the button pop culture references and unrelenting, very clever comedic writing. This never feels like a kids’ film that gives an occasional nod to the adult audience – it feels like a film written for adults that remains adroitly accessible to kids. The story follows Emmett (Chris Pratt), a very ordinary Lego man who lives a very ordinary Lego existence. He works as part of a construction team, building Lego skyscrapers in accordance with the Lego instructions, until the day when he stumbles across the fabled ‘piece of resistance’ that interrupts his conformist life by plunging him into a revolutionary underworld he never knew existed. Building on Wreck-It Ralph’s formula, The Lego Movie draws together a pantheon of popular culture icons that have appeared in Lego through the years. Emmet’s adventure unfolds like Toy Story meeting The Matrix in a bizarre mash-up world populated by Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gandalf, Abraham Lincoln, and Shakespeare.
The Lego Movie is a joy to watch, with stunning visuals slickly bringing the modular world and its incredible cast to life. Will Ferrell’s arch-villain of the piece Lord Business is a treat, and Irish audiences in particular will get a kick from Liam Neeson’s hilarious Jeckyl-and-Hyde style goon. While the story is at times overpowered by the rapid-fire asininity, it is strong and simple enough to easily connect back to, and beneath its hyperactive veneer it manages to carry a surprisingly deep and salient theme. Emmet’s world is populated by those who follow the instructions, building things as they were planned, and by those who step outside the norm and embrace their own vision of things, building new things that often fail but sometimes succeed. It manages to be both an exploration of the benefits and drawbacks of these conflicting worldviews, and a reflection on how our innate sense of playfulness often gets lost along the road to adulthood. Perhaps The Lego Movie’s greatest successes are a result of the fact that we are instinctively bound to underestimate it. Yes, it is a film about Lego, and yes, that means in a way it is 100 minute long advertisement, but it’s also so much more. It is an incredibly entertaining celebration of weirdness, and one of the most inventive discourses on creativity that you are likely to see in cinema this year.
Published in Gazette Group titles (Swords Gazette, Malahide Gazette, Blanchardstown Gazette, Castleknock Gazette, Dundrum Gazette, Dun Laoghaire Gazette, Lucan Gazette, Clondalkin Gazette) on 20th Feb 2014.