Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Ton of Bricks

This weekend, I went to see The Lego Movie (apparently a week after everyone else in the universe did, judging by the enormous opening weekend box office take.) The movie is the newest effort from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the team who wrote and directed the surprisingly entertaining Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Though I found it not quite as good as that previous effort, it was still a very fun film, equally enjoyable for children and adults.

Any CG-animated film about toys is inevitably going to stand a bit in the shadow of Pixar's superlative Toy Story series. In particular, the Lego Movie is traveling some of the same ground plot-wise as Toy Story 2. (A version of the "toys are meant to be played with" message at the heart of that film is the basis for this movie's "moral.") Still, the Lego Movie changes things up enough that you don't really sit there thinking "this is just like Toy Story 2."

Indeed, you hardly have time to think much at all, as the Lego Movie is an endless onslaught of jokes in all sizes and styles. Puns, sight gags, groaners, pop culture references... you name it, it's in there. Not since Airplane has a movie so doggedly sought to bury you under an avalanche of humor until you just give in and laugh already. (Not to mention that you've never in your life had a song stuck in your head as thoroughly as you will the penetrating earwig "Everything Is Awesome.") The plot holding these gags together is a bit loose, but there's something about the result that makes this not matter much. (There's also a predictable but appropriate explanation in the final act for how scattered everything has been.)

There's quite a cast assembled for the film. Chris Pratt is the "Everyman" hero Emmet. Will Ferrell channels shades of his villain Mugatu (from Zoolander) as the evil Lord Business. Elizabeth Banks is fun as Wyldstyle. Will Arnett is perfectly cast as Batman. Morgan Freeman has never been as playful as he is here embodying the wizard Vitruvius. Liam Neeson similarly cuts loose as Bad Cop/Good Cop. Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Cobie Smulders round out the secondary characters -- and that's not even getting in to the sprinkling of cameos throughout the film.

All told, I'd give the Lego Movie a B. I'd say its sky-high score on Rotten Tomatoes is a consequence of it being almost impossible not to at least "like" the film. It isn't quite a film to "love," though I can't imagine anyone would regret checking it out. (Except maybe later, when you can't get that song out of your head.)

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