My initial reaction upon hearing about The Lego Movie (2014) was that it sounds like Product Placement: The Movie. And it sort of is, but the video games are a little like that too, and I’ve enjoyed those, so why not? As it happens the movie is a clever, cute contraption that is much weirder than I was expecting it to be, if perhaps not quite as weird as I would have liked.
In the clockwork Lego city of Bricksburg, Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is a run-of-the-mill construction worker, a cog in the machine of society, happy with his simple, conformist lot in life. Then he stumbles across Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and accidentally lands himself in the middle of a cosmic struggle for the fate of the Lego universe. It seems that Professor Business (Will Ferrell) is planning to unleash a secret weapon called the KRAGLE on the universe, freezing everyone into their rightful positions and thus “perfecting” everything. Up against him are a ragtag band of “master builders” who thrive on the fluidity of the Lego world as it is, using the very landscape to express their inventive natures. Emmet doesn’t have a creative bone in his body, but a prophecy has deemed him “the Special,” and suddenly he finds himself responsible for the fate of everything.
It’s an inventive, visually arresting comedy-adventure, more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, and I enjoyed its unpredictable narrative, and finally catching the subversive undertones of “Everything is Awesome.” The voicework, which also features Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, and others, is well done, and the animation is frenetic and eye-catching. The conformity-vs.-nonconformity vibe gives the film unexpected thematic intrigue, and the ending gets into some weird meta territory. Unfortunately, that same ending also brought home the project’s overarching product placement-y nature: look how good Legos are for creative play! I wanted a little less family-friendly sap in those final moments, but I suppose it is a movie for kids — and for kids at heart — so I’ll give it up a thumbs up as a lively, clever diversion.