This has not been a great week. On the eve of our meticulously planned trip to Lisbon, including charming hotel, gourmet restaurants, and a visit to Europe's biggest aquarium, we discovered that the last-minute, non-refundable reservations we made were for the week before. I cannot describe to you the kids' disappointment or my horror at the waste of money, so I won't even try. Needless to say, we were all in need of a pick-me-up. Next stop: the "Lego Movie".
Now, like a lot of people, I was skeptical when I first heard about this project, dismissing it as a cynical vehicle to sell more toys, a "Transformers" for the primary school set. Then news started trickling out: it was being made by the Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, the guys who did "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"; the voice cast included Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett; the tone would be similar to the Lego video games, which are apparently a lot of fun. All good signs. Then twitter exploded along the lines of "hey guys, the Lego Movie is actually good!".
So it's probably no big surprise that I'm her to tell you: Guys, the "Lego Movie" is actually really good! The story follows Emmet (Pratt), an ordinary construction-worker lego figure who lives and works in a city ruled by the rigid President Business, who loves order so much he intends to use his secret weapon, the Kragle, to freeze everything exactly as it is forever.
Opposing President Business is the society of Master Builders, led by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman at his most Morgan Freeman-est). The Master Builders can use their special skills to transform lego pieces into whatever their imagination can dream up. At the beginning of the movie, President Business has used his army of robots to drive the Master Builders into hiding, but not before Vitruvius reveals a prophesy that states that a "Special" will find the Piece of Resistance capable of stopping the Kragle in its tracks.
Flash-forward to present day. Emmet is at his construction site late one night and comes across biker chick Wyldstyle (Banks), who is looking for the Piece of Resistance. Trying to make contact with the mysterious beauty, Emmet falls into a deep pit and accidentally finds the piece himself. Pursued by President Business, Emmet must join forces with the Master Builders and find what is truly special about himself in order to defeat President Business and save the various Lego realms.
If this storyline sounds somewhat familiar, it's because it's meant to. The writer-directors Lord and Miller use the classic Hero's Journey structure to not only describe Emmet's transformation from nobody to Somebody, but to deliberately comment on the act of storytelling itself. But more importantly, it is also a solid platform for a lot of great jokes.
Much of the film's humor stems directly from our familiarity with certain Lego characters (from the non-descript construction workers to the licensed superheroes like Batman), as well as our knowledge of lego toys themselves (the various lego kits, the limited ways legos move, the age-old conflict between following the instructions and building whatever you want). Visually, the movie is also a stand-out, particularly in 3D where you can see every curve and edge of the lego pieces that make up the movie's world (the lego water is particularly impressive).
There are so many rapid-fire jokes and visual gags that as soon as I walked out, I immediately wanted to see it again to catch all that I missed. The voice cast is uniformly excellent (special shout-outs to Will Arnett's broody Batman and Liam Neeson's schizophrenic Good Cop/Bad Cop). Full warning: the movie also has a kick-ass theme song that will get stuck in your head for days.
I don't want to give away of the jokes or plot twists, so I will just say, if you too are suffering from winter blues, run out and see the "Lego Movie". It's cheaper than a trip to Lisbon and no prescription is required.