When I first heard of The Lego Movie, I did not pay it any mind. The name itself was enough for me to tune out. I was expecting a lame movie, made for the lowest common denominator, intended only to sell legos. I mean the concept of any movie based on a toy, is enough to lose my interest. We have seen movies based on toys before, and they were never very good.
Then it came out, and people started to say it was actually good. But people have said that about kids movies before. People tend to lower their expectations for movies targeted at kids. I foolishly was not willing to give the movie a chance, until I actually decided to look at who was making the movie. It was at this point, I realized that it had the same directors as 21 Jump Street, which had come out two years earlier. 21 Jump Street was one of my favorite comedies in 2012, so knowing it was made by the same directors caught my interest. Then I looked at the cast and saw it had people like Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Will Ferrel, Allison Brie, Morgan Freeman, and more. That is a powerhouse cast, every actor/ actress has some great comedic chops. Chris Pratt was not the superstar he is now, but I knew him from Parks and Rec and knew he was funny. So, I put my cynicism aside, and I went by myself, to a matinee of The Lego Movie.
I was blown away. Right off the bat the audience, which given it was a matinee of a family movie during a school day was very small, was hit over the head with incredibly clever social commentary. The movie is about individuality. It is a subject that has been tackled before, but never quite this well. Many movies that want to celebrate individuality can be heavy-handed. It doesn’t cram crap about its hero being special down your throat. You do not need to be the most important, special person ever, to be the hero in your story, or to make a mark on society.
Which is where our hero, Emmet, comes in. Emmet is the least special person ever. He is a bit dim-witted, not particularly good at anything, and was completely happy in his life of conformity. But the movie shows that, with effort, even someone like him can leave a mark on society. At the end of the movie, every character, no matter how old, young, etc, show they can play a role and save the day. The movie set up a story about all these special heroic people called the Master Builders, and how they are going to save the day, but then flips it on its head. It was refreshing to have a story that doesn’t tell us the protagonist is the most special and important person ever, even if the movie pretended that was the direction it was heading.
The movie also makes some sharp observations about consumerism and conformity and does so through the medium of legos. See with legos there was always this conundrum. Do I follow the instructions, and make the product that is on the box, or do I be creative, and build my own creation. The villain in the movie wants everyone to make his things, he wants to control everyone into one way of thinking. The heroes fight back to protect individuality. The lesson at the end is that there is merit in both ways of thinking and that we shouldn’t force everyone to fit into one hole. Some people like order, and want to follow the instructions. Others want to take the pieces meant to build a car, and instead build a spaceship. It sees the merits of both individualities and of conformity.
When everyone in the movie is being forced to conform to one way of thinking, the world is bland. Things are not as good as they can be because all of the designs are coming from one person with no outside input. But then when our group of heroes are all trying to act as individuals, it also does not work out. At one point they are trying to escape, and are building a submarine together. But no one works together, and they all want to do their own thing, so the end product doesn’t work, and the submarine breaks. If they were willing to conform a little bit and sacrifice their own individuality for a little bit to work as a group, they could have succeeded. The only thing that is left standing, is the thing our hero Emmet made, which is a double-decker couch.
For some context, everyone throughout the movie was making fun of Emmet for his idea of a double-decker couch. People told him it was a bad idea. In the end, though, it saved them, because although it was a weird idea, it was well made and didn’t break apart under the pressure. The entire scene is the movie in a nutshell. It shows the merits of individuality, him making his couch despite other telling him it is dumb, but also the downfalls of it, which is when you are so obsessed with being an individual, that you forget there are other people you have to work with. It is telling people to not forget who they are, and what makes them special, while also reminding us that sometimes we have to conform and work as a group. It is a concept that does not only apply to building Legos but life itself. The Lego Movie lives in grey areas like this. Not everything is black and white, and whereas many movies love to talk about individuality without discussing its downfalls, The Lego Movie shows you both sides. It reminds me of another brilliant film, A Serious Man, which also tackles to question of individuality, or conformity.
Beyond how smart and thoughtful the movie is, it was also a laugh riot. It blends the smart humor, with some humor that is mostly just face value. It also has some of the best animation in recent memory. They lower the frame rate to mimic stop-motion style, but it is still 3d animation so they are not constrained by the limitations of stop-motion offers. They can have exciting fast-paced actions scenes, with explosions, and fast-moving settings, but also the fun quirkiness that stop-motion offers.
Oh, and it has Batman in it, which is always good. Batman is hysterical here. It is more or less a parody of Batman as a character and depicts him as a moody egomaniac.
The fact this movie was not even nominated for Best Animated Movie at The Oscars, is a travesty. None of the other movies that were nominated had better animation, were funnier, or as smart as the Lego Movie. Is it basically a commercial for Legos,, sure. But it is the best feature-length commercial ever. It is a joy to watch and can appeal to people of any age. I adore this movie and would recommend it to everyone.