Film #115: The Lego Movie (2014)

the-lego-movie-image03Directors: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Language: English
Length: 100 minutes
Watched on: 16 April 2014

When I saw The Lego Movie last month, I’d already heard some good things about it, so perhaps I was primed to like it. I worked out that at least Tokyo, and probably Japan, had only one subtitled screening of the movie, the rest being dubbed for a younger audience, so it was lucky that said screening wasn’t so far away in Shinjuku – that said, not so lucky because the first time I tried to go, on a Sunday, the screening was fully booked. Perhaps I was foiled by the sudden influx of tourists last month.

Watching The Lego Movie was certainly an experience – it’s certainly a lot more upbeat than most of the other movies I’ve watched recently, for one thing. Nominally, everything in the movie’s universe is made of lego, although hints are laid down early on that this isn’t really the case – for instance, one of the main strands of the plot is that they have to recover a McGuffin artifact that is the cap to a bottle of glue.

The main character of the story is a construction worker drone from a very large city, which is controlled through propaganda by Dr Business (there is a very strong anti-big-business theme running throughout, and the filmmakers roll with it without trying to hide it at all). By accidentally recovering the McGuffin, he is branded “the Special” by the “Master Builders”, a group of famous franchised characters that have been made into lego figures, such as Batman, or Dumbledore and Gandalf, who are mixed up by the other characters – or rather, they realize he is nothing special at all.

The plot isn’t especially strong, as it mostly consists of a string of loosely connected events, almost like a road movie. Characters surface and disappear in order to make a pop culture joke – probably most obvious with the Star Wars characters. In some ways this makes sense given the context and premise, since they are able to transfer between different lego-based environments easily, but I thought it was a bit spotty and could have done with some stronger direction.

The ending is pretty standard for this kind of movie – it’s there to teach you a lesson, pure and simple. I don’t wish to spoil it beyond that, because there is an important twist. I wasn’t disappointed by the ending, but it was a bit trite. Then there is enough to set up a potential sequel right at the end.

The humour, however, is spot on, enough to make me giggle throughout most of the movie (I actually had a bit of a surreal experience where most of the rest of the audience were laughing when they read the subtitles, and I was pretty much the only one laughing when I heard the joke a few seconds later). Most of it was just pure silliness, although some of it stemmed from the aforementioned character cameos.

It was generally a fun movie. Another amusing thing for me was comparing it to the Lego Star Wars games that I’d been playing recently – obviously the brief scene with Han Solo was the most reminiscent of that. I don’t know if I’d see the movie again – maybe give it a few months or a year and I might be up for it. But it’s pretty high up in the pantheon of animated movies, and for something with no predecessor, that’s pretty commendable. It’s come in strong and I hope the series stays and grows that way.

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