Part of the reason I feel so strongly about animation is because there is so much diversity and depth within the genre. These films can be enjoyed on multiple levels, from just a simple entertainment standpoint to a deep and enriching perspective. This means that they can be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences. Not just children, but also adults who have a vivid imagination.
For example, one of the first animated movies I remember falling in love with was “Toy Story.” As a kid, I loved it because I always imagined my own toys coming to life and the adventures they would get into. As an adult, the film works on a much more subconscious level where you appreciate the deeper themes of growing up and realizing your place in the world. You pick up on plot points you missed or overlooked as a kid, which adds something new that makes you appreciate it even more.
Animation does this incredibly well: Being simple enough for anyone to understand, yet complex enough to be enjoyable and thought-provoking for years to come.
A new film to add to this category is “The Lego Movie.” While not traditional animation, the film takes every opportunity to have fun with its ridiculous premise. The film knows that it is crazy, but it never winks directly at the audience or goes so over the top that it becomes stupid.
The world is made up entirely of Legos and everything is awesome. The city is bustling, the people are happy and pleasant and some new Lego structure is built every day. One of these construction workers is Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), a guy who doesn’t stick out and plays everything safe (always asking for the instructions when building something).
One day though, Emmet happens upon a mystical Lego block that attaches itself to him. Now the forces of President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) are out to kill him for being “The Special.” His forces are stopped by Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) and intends to take Emmet to the Master Builders to formulate a plan to stop President Business from destroying the entire Lego world.
You may think the plot I just described sounds childish and laughable, but that’s honestly the point. Part of the charm of “The Lego Movie” lies in that it reenacts all of those times we as children played with Legos. We would use our imagination and create our own wonderful and fantastic stories with our toys, and the film takes full advantage of that.
There’s a scene early on in the film where Wyldstyle and Emmet meet and have to outrun the police force and Wyldstyle has to use the surrounding Lego pieces of trash and an alleyway to build this gigantic motorcycle and is later converted into a jet.
In a later scene, set in an old west town, the two are being chased down by the Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson) and it is extremely reminiscent of the opening scene in “Toy Story 3” with a train eventually falling off the track of a destroyed bride. Though this one gets bonus points for Bad Cop’s laser blasting jet and the introduction of Batman (voiced by Will Arnett)
Seriously, all films can never have too much Batman.
Much of the strengths of “The Lego Movie” lie in the little details and the careful care that the filmmakers put into them. From the explosions and smoke also being made from Legos, to the insane yet mystical sounding names that President Business gives to the real life household items he comes across, including nail polish, a golf ball and a container of Krazy Glue with certain letters scratched off to make it look like “Kragle.”
Everything in this film is composed of Lego pieces, but the film uses this more as a set piece. While Legos are essential to the story, it never over glorifies them. The movie shows the strengths and vast variety of Legos, but it takes everything so seriously that you can’t help but appreciate the love, thought and imagination that was put into the film.
If you’ve had a toy, odds are there was a point where you created a story something like this. “The Lego Movie” takes you back to that point in your life and makes you appreciate those childhood moments.
Even more so, the film offers up a vision of taking those childhood moments too far and letting to live in the moment rather than the past. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the ending adds a whole new level of charm to the film.
Overall, “The Lego Movie” was fun and entertaining from start to finish. It would have been simple enough to just make a movie made out of Legos, but to add an element of childlike wonder to everything adds so much to the film. The animation is flawless, the voice acting is hilarious (especially Morgan Freeman as the blind sage, Vitruvius) and the film never stops being clever and witty.
Final Grade: A-