Co-writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are building a solid reputation. I never saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but I know it got way better reviews than I ever expected for a movies called Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. And with 21 Jump Street, they managed to take a seemingly lazy, cynical, nostalgia based cash grab, and turn it into one of the funniest comedies of its year. It also made me notice the comic awesomeness of Channing Tatum.
Now, they’ve done it again. If there’s anything that could have been more of a lazy, cynical, nostalgia based cash grab than a movie based on a cheesy 80s TV show, it’s a movie based on a kids’ toy. Especially a kids’ toy that doesn’t even come with characters or built in back story. But like 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie has too much genuine affection for its characters and history, to ever be lazy, cynical, or nostalgically cash grabby.
Chris Pratt is the voice of Emmett, an everyday Lego man construction worker. He lives in a town where everyone’s lives are ruled by instruction manuals. Waking up and getting ready for work, making small talk with colleagues, dancing to Lego World hit single Everything is Awesome… All of these things come with a step by step manual that Emmett is only too eager to follow.
Until he’s burdened with the Piece of Resistance, a weird mysterious object that might be the key to saving them all from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). To help discover his inner hero, Emmett teams up with cyber punk Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Virtruvius (Morgan Freeman), Batman (Will Arnett) and Benny (Charlie Day).
The Lego Movie has been made by people who obviously had a real connection to Lego and everything that comes with it as kids. The little nods to things like Benny the space man’s broken helmet, the lollypop stick as Vitruvius’s staff, Lego pieces intended for one purpose being co-opted for another (like Lord Business’ horns made from coffee mugs). The love for everything Lego is just too obvious to ignore.
The other major achievement in The Lego Movie is the way it injects actual (and literal) human emotion. And while the execution of this aspect might be a little heavy handed, the ingenuity in how it’s worked in, more than makes up the cheese.
On some levels, The Lego Movie is a rip off of The Matrix, a rip off of every ‘be yourself’ kids’ move you’ve ever seen, and a rip off of every ‘everyman discovers he’s chosen one’ story ever told. But none of that matters. Because while the ingredients might seem clichéd, obvious and overdone, the end result is just too fun, too fresh and too entertaining. Lord and Miller have once again proven that they don’t just polish turds or put lip stick on pigs, they are story miracle workers, turning even the oldest and most obvious tropes into a world where everything is awesome.