Release Date: 14th February 2014
Running time: 100 minutes
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Alison Brie
The ground shudders and shakes as a flying police car opens fire on a castle in the clouds. Panic envelops the crowded halls as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (as well as Abraham Lincoln and Milhouse from The Simpsons) spring to the defence of this lofty palace. Spaceship battles, motorcycle chases, undersea voyages and ferocious dragons; this film is as eclectic as the worlds you created as a kid, only this time they’ve been brought to life. That’s right, it’s a movie made up with animated Lego; the appropriately titled Lego Movie.
The last few years has seen the release of several films based on popular toys. These have been generally pretty horrible to watch; from the brainless Battleship to the turgid Transformers trilogy, they are a testament to the current dearth of imagination currently found in Hollywood. Thankfully The Lego Movie isn’t horrible to watch at all. In fact it’s really quite good. It’s also a loving tribute to the wonder and power of imagination.
The beauty of Lego as a toy is that it can be absolutely anything, the only limitation being what the user can imagine. Well, that and the amount of bricks that they have to play with. For directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller the number of blocks available to them is limitless (what with it being computer generated) but things have a nice lo-fi, stop motion feel and it is only in the facial expressions of characters that things aren’t composed of those distinctive plastic bricks. In this unique style the filmmakers have fashioned a world choc-a-bloc with huge structures and weird characters. It’s a visual treat with every frame crammed full of little details and jokes that flesh out this strange universe of Lego. And it certainly is a strange universe.
Like Lord and Miller’s previous films 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie takes frequent surreal turns and delights in bizarre non-sequiturs. Although the overall arc of the story – where the lead character has to learn to be themselves – has been seen over and over again (pretty much every second animated film is about this, it’s insane) the silliness manages to keep things fresh from moment to moment, even if the endpoint is clear from the outset. There’s a real affection for the titular plaything on show in this gleefully madcap film and even its weirder, meta moments are uncynical in their devotion for Lego. This enthusiasm is evident from the writer directors down to the cast who are uniformly excellent. Will Arnett’s pompous Batman is highly entertaining and there are some wonderfully game performances from Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman sending up their screen personas as a tough guy cop and a wise old man.
The story may be formulaic but the level of invention, wit and detail on show is anything but. Funny, weird and full of great set pieces and design, The Lego Movie is a lot of action-packed visually inspired fun. The type of film that deserves to be a Block-buster (see what I did there?!)