Rental Corner: “The Lego Movie”
Earlier in the year, moviegoers were treated to “The Lego Movie.” A big-screen adaption based on the famed toy many have been using to build all sorts of things and places brick by brick. Legos are still a hot product and sure enough this movie was a massive hit. “Lego Movie” got unanimous praise all around from viewers and Lego fans alike. The only question I have is that if such a film could get so much praise and appreciation, how come I’m not in the majority of those who keep claiming this is the next Toy Story? Or simply, how come I didn’t like this movie when it offers so much that I can enjoy but in the end I only felt it didn’t come together for me?
Well, sure enough this movie establishes its set in a universe where everything is made of Legos. From the people to even right down to the buildings, as the citizens casually go about their daily lives by means of instructions given to them. One inhabitant name Emmit (voiced by Chris Pratt) is a causal everyday construction worker gets suddenly pulled from his average day of following the rules to a chosen one plot. Eventually, he meets up with a group of Legos that are part of a rebellion alliance that plan to save the Lego universe from the clutches of the world’s leader Lord Business (performed by a surprisingly under used Will Ferrell). Lord Business plans to use a weapon called the Kragle to glue down the Lego universe to keep it “perfectly still” in his view. With Emitt tossed into the mix as a supposed “Chosen One,” he is the only thing that can save the Lego world but the problem is that aside from living life by the book, he doesn’t have a single creative thought in his plastic noggin aside from creating double decker sofas and ogling the love interest Wyldstyle who has Batman (Will Arnet) for a boyfriend.
And that’s very much just a portion of the plot as it feels like a first grader wrote this idea and I feel that’s kinda the point of this movie. Its meant to be outlandish and absurd to the point you feel like your watching a kid playing with his toys. And that’s one of the problems I had with “Lego Movie” as I felt like the whole movie was being made by a kid and I couldn’t distinguish if I should treat this as a kids movie or a self-aware parody of kids films considering the tone and style of the movie is addressing how aware it is. And I don’t want to be reminded of that. I want to watch a film and its universe.
After seeing “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street,” I think I finally caught on to what directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are doing with their movies. They are making their flicks “self-aware” in thinking the more satire that gets injected, the more funnier it feels. Now, I love satire and I can see this form of writing working for things like Futurama or Mel Brooks movies. But the problem I have is that their material feels too “self-aware” when addressing a joke on a film cliche or how the scene is obviously parodying the common criticisms filmgoers have about today’s movies (as seen in 21 Jump Street when the chief officer comments on how people are rehashing old things and making them new…because that is about as clever as peanut butter toast).
I don’t mind “breaking the fourth wall” or being “self-aware” of yourself. But it has to work in a way so it doesn’t hamper with the environment of the movie. Mel Brooks took on the old West (Blazing Saddles) and future space (Spaceballs) without nudging to the audience frequently of the stuff they are parodying. The Muppets did riff on their own films but not the point they were constantly calling shots on which cliche was next or poking holes at the plot at a heavy pace. I can understand the form of comedy its going for but it just didn’t feel right for me here. I wanted to enjoy this world of living toys in their own world but because of the constant “film nudges,” it kept pulling me out as I was reminded it was a movie and I really don’t want that feeling. I didn’t even laugh or smile at a single joke. Not one. And trust me, I do have a sense of humor. I’ve enjoyed recent kid/family films like Despicable Me 2, Frozen, and Muppets Most Wanted so perhaps there’s something with the comedic style that is not engaging to me.
Sure it has a social commentary on how unoriginal things are today and people are literally “going by the book” to get through life but it felt done before with movies like Brazil or Wall-E. Wall-E had it edgy with the human race babied down to computer obsessed beings as Brazil showed a totalitarian nightmare where the simplest computer error can create much havoc. With “Lego Movie,” I didn’t feel like I was getting anything new as the mini-toys go about their life and act like there is nothing wrong by sticking to what they read from a set of instructions.
But maybe the characters will be interesting right? Unfortunately, they were predicable and standard to me. We get Emmit, the everyday worker who enjoys being part of the system and will find out just how important he is to this big conflict that is up ahead. He’s got a bright cheery attitude that makes him goofy but morale heart to know how to take his average life and put it to use. He’s very much the every man cliche and I didn’t find much interest in him. What I couldn’t understand was how Emmit could be so energetic and happy when he knows so many people and yet they don’t acknowledge him as a close person. For a character this upbeat, I can’t picture him being socially awkward or devoted of people even considering how he interacts with them in the opening scene like he knows EVERYONE personally and yet they later regard him as just another average joe. Yeah, we know he’s going to save the day. There’s not competition there.
Wyldstyle is the feisty female love interest who wants to be great but misses her chance like Tigeress from Kung Fu Panda but less mystique. Vitruvius is the wise Obi Wan that guides the group and is blind (which in a possible reference to Ray Charles where he plays the piano I found rather questionable…either that or maybe I’m looking it too much. your choice), Batman is the Gaston that tries to prove how heroic he is and yet is wrong, Benny and Bad Cop are there for comic relief and then there is Lord Business. First, you can’t make a villain like this have a name with less subtly. Seriously? Lord Business? Guess executives are in open season for being kid movie villains.
Second, for an antagonist who has plans to freeze the Lego world and plays a huge part, I didn’t think much of him. Will Ferrell does his usual shtick and does fit the personality of a “I want things my way” form of character but I didn’t find him funny or even threatening. I didn’t even feel like he was in the movie that much the more I think about it. The focus is more on this world of Legos that is doesn’t think twice when it comes to character depth that often.
But the biggest problem I had was the twist near the end which reveals the truth behind the Lego world. I won’t give too much away for those who have yet to see it but I will put it like this. Remember how I said this movie feels like it was written by a kid? I’ll leave it at that. By the time we get to this part, it feels like the rug has been pulled out from us. This Lego world is vast and when they reveal the truth behind it, it feels somewhat last minute and not well fleshed out. It feels like a last minute tag for emotion that comes right out of nowhere.
But there is a bigger problem to contend with and that’s my familiarity with Legos. I’m going to admit it right on the fly. I knew about Legos as a kid. I heard about this as a kid. I even saw commercials about them as a kid. But I never had them in my toy chest growing up or even think much of them. I was more of a castle playset/action figure/plushie kid. When ever I had the chance to play with Legos, it would either be with the Duplo set or Kenetix. I even got annoyed with how there were so many small pieces in such a big box. Yeah, I didn’t have much patience nor have the Lego building skills. I just wasn’t into Legos that much and it shows how much I wasn’t into this movie because of my childhood experiences and the style of the screenplay. Even looking at as a movie on its own, I can’t separate it seeing it prominently has Legos as the center and feels like a half movie/half commercial. I can already picture kids running out and finding sets for the Unikitty’s cloud palace or trying to hunt down an Abraham Lincoln figurine.
But still are there some positives? Well I do admit, the animation is good. Seeing the way these worlds are made brick by brick and the movements of the Lego figures almost give the feel of a stop-motion flick and you have to give credit for their research. Even on the close ups, you can almost see scratches and signs of wear on the characters giving the feel of animated plastic right in front of you. Again, the idea of a world with nothing but Legos is a unique concept until the revelation kicks in that diminishes all wonder and I do like the idea of how they keep taking anything in this world and crafting something out of it like a pirate ship or a hot rod car. And you can tell the performers are having a good time regardless of one’s attitude towards this movie. They know its a movie about Legos and not limiting themselves while going all out and childish like spaceman Benny’s crazed obsession for making a spaceship or Unikitty’s urge to keep her emotions bottled up like how a kid would refused to explode into sadness or rage.
However, when I look back upon this movie, it reflects my feelings with the movie’s number “Everything is Awesome” where it feels too hip and energetic for my taste. Sure its a nice looking film but story and characters are the biggie when it comes to a feature film and I feel those elements didn’t live up to my taste. Maybe 2013’s crop of bad family films left me to resort to a form of cynical film snob or maybe the director’s comedic writing style didn’t work for me. Either way, I can’t chalk this up as a bad movie considering the amount of effort placed into it and considering the huge amount of respect and praise it has behind it. I’m sure kids will really love this one but for me, I’m more of a Toy Story guy as the world of people and toys melded together perfectly in that film and I had better connections with the characters and plot. “The Lego Movie,” on the other hand, just didn’t do much for me aside from its animation and creative environment. Even going in with an open mind and viewing it just as it is, I still didn’t like this one no matter what.
Posted on June 22, 2014, in Rental Corner and tagged 21 Jump Street, Adaption, Chris Pratt, Christopher Miller, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Legos, Phil Lord, rental corner, The Lego Movie, Toy, Warner Bros. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.