Think back to when you used to play with Lego bricks — chances are that you don’t remember the very first time. Now, with the arrival of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s bizarre but beautiful The Lego Movie, your first viewing shall remain etched in your memory forever.
With its array of bankable pop-culture references and glorious visual trickery to keep the little ones entertained, The Lego Movie is an out-and-out winner, but the real key to its success is entertaining the grown-ups too, the people who have paid for the tickets.
This film, which has breathed life into characters lifted from popular films with the aid of a Danish toy manufacturing giant, has a narrative heavily inspired by The Matrix which evoked a lot of initial skepticism. But somehow, the makers have managed to miraculously make this film funny and clever enough, without any guilt on the viewer’s part.
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an average construction-site worker, who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. Everything is Awesome is the song he plays on a loop where he lives and works and the irony is lost on nobody — while the song is clearly awesome and catchy, nothing else is. Emmet’s fellow men, or rather fellow bricks, are all living a meaningless existence, blindly following orders by Lord Business (Will Ferrell).
When Emmet notices the mysterious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) at his construction site, he follows her and from then on his life changes completely. Emmet is thrust into a world that, it seems, has been cooked up by a child given free rein to assemble a user-defined Lego set at his or her will. Batman, Superman, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Potter and Han Solo are just some of the many characters featured in the ensuing narrative. Some cameos are wittily blink-and-miss, which is just as well, as The Lego Movie demands repeat viewings. Liam Neeson’s bad cop/good cop routine alone is worth the price of admission. It’s the film’s highlight; a note-perfect performance that outdoes any action film the Irish actor has done in the past few years.
As far as Emmet is concerned, he is fulfilling a quasi-prophesy from Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a wizard who blabbed something in the film’s prologue about a certain ‘Special’, who will prevent Lord Business from using a dodgy-looking super weapon called the ‘Kragle’ (a superglue, which will render the Lego figures immobile). What that really means is where the film falters slightly. Lord and Miller turn their climax into an anticlimactic affair, trying too hard to convey the core message with Brechtian techniques that feel a bit patchy. It’s not terrible, but the scene’s enjoyment depends on how much thought parents put in building their kids’ toys.
The film feels like a whole-hearted Lego endorsement throughout, but our world and the times we live in have ingeniously been tackled head on by corporatism itself. In the end it all comes together though, as smooth as two interlocking Lego blocks, with Emmet’s robotic superficiality being replaced by a profound sense of self belief.
Schayan Riaz is a Germany-based writer who loves cinema. He tweets @schayanriaz
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 30th, 2014.