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‘The Lego Movie’: Everything is awesome

| Monday, February 10, 2014

Lego_Banner_ColorERIN RICE | The Observer

There are countless reasons why “The Lego Movie” shouldn’t have worked. Many of us raised an eyebrow at the concept of revolving an entire movie premise around a toy product (you’d be right to be skeptical). In the wrong hands, “The Lego Movie” could have been disastrous, but under the direction of comedy experts Phil Lord and Chris Miller (directors of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street”) this film becomes something truly outstanding. With gorgeous spectacles, constant laughs and surprisingly heartwarming message, you’ll quickly see that, like the product, “The Lego Movie” isn’t just for children ages 8 to 14.

The film follows the story of Emmitt — an ordinary construction worker who is perfectly content living his life by instruction booklets that guide his every action (“Remember to breathe!”). He and the rest of the citizens of Bricksburg (Get it? Because of the … oh, never mind) spend their days blissfully working, watching quality programming (“Where are My Pants?”), paying for overpriced coffee (“That’ll be $37!”) and listening to the hit song, “Everything is Awesome,” on constant repeat (“I will never get tired of this song!”). They all live under the mighty fist of Lord/President Business (Will Ferrell) who wants nothing more than utter perfection for his world, even if it calls for “deadly” measures. As for Emmitt, he’s a forgettable nobody who doesn’t quite know how to stand out. He’s not special; he never has been. But that all changes when he accidently stumbles across the legendary “piece of resistance,” which is not only the key to saving the Lego universe from President Business, but promises that whoever discovers it is the “most important and interesting person in the universe.” Now bearing the title,  “The Special,” Emmitt is joined by the awesomely rebellious Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the hippy, blind sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) who train him in becoming a fellow Master Builder, someone who can build anything from Lego world around them.

President Business cannot stand the Master Builders, who continuously keep “messing with his stuff,” so he devises a plan to coat the world with a dangerous substance known as KraGle (you may know it as Krazy Glue) in order to keep things exactly the way they are.  Of course, President Business keeps the world oblivious to his plans with the promise of free tacos on Taco Tuesday. Teaming up with other Master Builders, from iconic figures like the ego-centric Batman (perfectly voiced by Will Arnett) to total original Lego creations like the giant robotic pirate, Metal Beard (Nick “Swanson” Offerman), this team will do whatever it takes to stop President Business and his double-faced henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson). Through this crazy and consistently charming adventure in the various realms of the Lego Universe, Emmitt will discover just what he’s truly capable of and that every one of us has the power within to be special.

Technically, this movie is an animated wonder. Though a majority of the film is created through computer-generated imagery, the production team creates the illusion of live-action, stop motion through some impressively advanced techniques. The voice acting cast hosts an impressive list of celebrities (too many to count). Some iconic roles like Superman (Channing Tatum) find new voices, while Shaquille O’Neal and several “Star Wars” roles are the real deal.

With an endless number of characters under Warner Brothers’ studio to use, the movie takes full advantage of this and pokes fun at a number of beloved franchises. Chris Pratt is the true stand-out among the cast and brings an absolutely charming and hilariously absent-minded innocence to the voice of Emmitt. You know from listening just how much fun the cast is having with their roles, surprisingly most noticeable with Neeson and Freeman’s roles. Will Ferrell particularly shines in the film (especially in mispronouncing the names of real-world products) as his role is heightened in the finale in a hilariously surprising manner (think “Wedding Crashers”).

But the heart of its film is its narrative, which showcases the battle between the relatable mindsets of following instructions and following imagination, with both sides shown to have their benefits. The story is surprisingly layered and multi-dimensional, particularly at the end when the source of the Lego-Universe is revealed. It’s a story about embracing the carefree child within and learning the importance of freethinking and fun (no matter your age).

In “The Lego Movie,” everyone is redeemable and everyone has the potential for greatness. There’s a very promising future for this franchise, but right now, it’s important not to look towards the future and instead appreciate what was accomplished in this film. In “The Lego Movie,” everything is wonderful, hysterical, charming, heartfelt, and absolutely awesome.

Contact William Neal at wneal@nd.edu

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