Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Lego Movie

***1/2 out of ****

A Lego Movie? Yes there is. What’s it like? Well it’s a one-hundred-minute Lego commercial, of course. With that said, it’s a real good one-hundred-minute Lego commercial. Is there anything controversial about Legos? If you have an answer to that question, I don't want to know.

Legos are just awesome. I used them to build my own Star Wars ships when I was a kid. It seems that some other kid had the same idea, grew up and went to work at the Lego Company because now they have Star Wars Lego sets and many other themes as well. I’m jealous. I guess it’s not too late to revert to one of my favorite childhood activities, but I’m bound to make a bigger mess now.

I remember when the stop-motion Lego version of the Knights of the Round Table musical number from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was first posted online. It was really fun to see such a kitschy pop-cultural mesh-up on display. More videos followed from the same animators and I eventually ignored the trend until Lego themed DVDs and video-games started coming out, blending the famous Danish interlocking toy bricks with the likes of Indiana Jones. It seems now, that Legos have wide appeal outside of their function.

So, here’s a big-budget computer-animated feature from Warner Brothers with major voice stars from Will Ferrell to Morgan Freeman. The movie has the rambunctiousness of an ADHD child mixed with adult-like interpretations of its play-world. There’s an allegory for this later in the film, but I won’t spoil it. If you remember the opening scene in Toy Story 3, where the toys are in a fantasy land having an adventure, then prepare for an entire movie committed to something conceptually similar.

Its hero character is a construction worker Lego man named Emmett, who embraces conformity and believes so strongly in following instructions to accomplish tasks. After realizing that he serves a corrupt system with an evil leader, who shuns creativity, he joins group of revolutionaries, who believe in building things a unique way.  

From the get-go, I was reminded of the rapid-fire rhythm of Madagascar, a children’s animated film, I detested, but there is so much more to like with The Lego Movie. For one thing, it’s almost unnecessarily good looking. The computer animation spares no effort in rendering endlessly complex shots, while creating realistic textures, lighting and cinematography. While the movie has a lush photogenic look, it still preserves the jerky animation in its individual characters that resembles stop-motion. In other words, the animation method is providing a lot of the comedy.

The film was conceived and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the team behind the Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs movie and the 21 Jump Street movie. Among other things, they were the creators of a much loved but short-lived MTV animated series called Clone High.

So we have a Lego movie and it’s pretty good. A co-worker of mine asked if such a thing is really necessary. I said that it isn’t, but neither was Clue: The Movie, and we all like that one. Familiarity sells. I still wait for Tetris: The Movie. Some day, Dwayne Johnson. Some Day. 

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