Bad Cop, Batman, Building blocks, C-3PO, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Lando Calrissian, Lego, Liam Neeson, Master Builder, Morgan Freeman, Review, Superman, The Man Upstairs, Will Ferrell, Wonder Woman
D: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller / 100m
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill
When evil Lord Business (Ferrell) steals the Kragle from Vitruvius (Freeman), he plans to use it to destroy all the Lego worlds, including his own, in a bid to restore order where he sees only chaos. Before he does, though, Vitruvius warns Lord Business of a prophecy, that there will come a Special, a Master Builder who will find the Piece of Resistance that will, in turn, stop the Kragle from being used as a weapon. Lord Business is scornful of this idea and forges ahead with his plans.
Some time later, with Lord Business now ensconced as President Business, we meet lowly construction worker Emmet (Pratt), a smiling nobody who feels most comfortable when following instructions. At work he tries to fit in with the other employees but it’s almost as if he’s invisible. At the end of the day he discovers a young woman, Wyldstyle (Banks), searching through the ruins of the construction site (each day’s building work gets reduced to rubble again so the crews can start afresh each day – it’s a neat acknowledgement of how LEGO is used in “the real world”). She disappears, leaving Emmet to wonder what she was looking for. Falling through a hole he ends up discovering the Piece of Resistance before he’s knocked unconscious. When he wakes he’s in police custody, with the Piece of Resistance stuck to his back. Interrogated by Bad Cop (Neeson), Emmet struggles to prove his innocence. Rescued by Wyldstyle, they escape to The Old West where they meet up with Vitruvius. Bad Cop follows them and they almost perish but for the intervention of Batman (Arnett). Travelling on to Cloud Cuckoo Land where they meet Unikitty (Brie), Emmet, lacking the imagination of a true Master Builder, fails to impress a meeting of said same and they refuse to aid him against Lord Business.
The Master Builders are captured by Bad Cop while Emmet and some of the others manage to escape underwater. Evading Bad Cop’s pursuit for a while, Emmet realises that the Master Builders need someone to mold them into a team, and he’s just the man for the job. They hatch a plan to infiltrate Lord Business’s lair, rescue the Master Builders, neutralise the Kragle, and put a stop to Business’s plans once and for all.
Now that it’s here, the first thing to be said about The LEGO Movie is: why the hell has it taken so long to get here? We could have been enjoying Emmet’s adventures ages ago. For The LEGO Movie is a blast, a glorious riot of colour and sound and unfettered imagination that erupts from the screen – especially in 3D – and happy-slaps the viewer full in the face… and then does it again several times over. There’s just so much to enjoy, it’s embarrassing. From the establishing shot stretching out from Emmet’s apartment to the level of detail in almost every frame, The LEGO Movie astonishes as often as it impresses as it entertains. Of course, the visuals are key, the Lego worlds given a stunning amount of depth and solidity. There’s so much going on that the movie needs a second or third viewing to catch everything that’s happening, and even then things are still likely to be missed.
With so many visual riches on display, and a dizzying array of sight gags – some daft, some ingenious and some just sublime – it would be wrong to think of the movie as just a kind of animator’s wet dream. There is the script by co-directors Lord and Miller, a fantastic achievement that recognises the one over-riding aspect of LEGO that has been a part of its appeal since its first appearance in 1949: literally, anything can happen. Witness the changes to Bad Cop’s car when he flies off the top of the train in The Old West, or the dizzying array of adaptations and changes that happen to the vehicle Emmet and Wyldstyle escape on when fleeing the police station. The fact that the script can fit these wild feats of imagination into its more straightforward central storyline, and still deliver on some brilliant lines of dialogue as well – Batman: “I only work in black, or sometimes very, very dark grey”; Cowboy: “Do you think zeppelins are a bad investment?”; and Bad Cop: “Darn, darn, darny darn!” – shows just how much effort has been invested in bringing The LEGO Movie to completion.
The cast rise to the occasion, with Ferrell, Arnett and Freeman standing out from the crowd, supplying pitch perfect vocal performances, and there’s some great cameos – yes, that really is Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian (well, come on, who else was it going to be?) – that are fun to spot as well as goofily endearing. And look out too for Superman (Tatum) being stalked by Green Lantern (Hill), a recurring gag that could be spun out into (at least) a LEGO short. But the real, and completely unexpected vocal star, is Neeson, providing his usual gruff, tough-guy voice for Bad Cop, and alternating it when needed to a thin, whiny falsetto as Good Cop; it’s a wonderful performance and, well… who knew?
With a conclusion that veers close to being a little too sentimental – but is saved by a last-minute revelation that saves the day and sets up the sequel (due in 2017) – The LEGO Movie astonishes and amazes from start to finish. It’s not often that an animated movie, ostensibly aimed at children, is this entertaining for adults as well but LEGO has been a part of so many people’s lives in the last sixty-five years that it should come as no surprise that adults will get as much out of the movie as kids will. And it’s a rarer movie still that can cut across so many demographics and still retain its integrity.
Rating: 9/10 – a clever, impressive script married to a perfectly realised Lego environment makes The LEGO Movie an early contender for Animated Movie of the Year (and an earlier than expected challenge to Mr. Peabody & Sherman for that honour); sublime, exhilarating and pretty darn perfect.