Movies: ‘The LEGO Movie’ Wins the Weekend

[BAD COP] The LEGO Movie would be a massive hit even if it were terrible.

[GOOD COP] Who cares? It's wonderful!

Unikitty-adBad Cop/Good Cop isn't the only bipolar character in The LEGO Movie. There's also Unikitty who is 'half unicorn, half anime kitten and non stop dance party'. She's absolutely militant about happy thoughts until she gives up and Rage Kitty surfaces. Neither of them are the first animated character to change moods as quick as a head spin. No paternity tests required but I suspect both characters are descendants of The Mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas who was probably a second cousin himself to Regan/Pazuzu, though unfortunately for her the head spinning didn't help her change moods back.

(Where was I going with this? Blame the movie's abundance of characters from other movies for the sidebar!)

Family trees aside, Bad Cop/Good Cop and Unikitty/Rage Kitty are perfect embodiments of The LEGO Movies quick-change pacing and comic flexibility. It strikes the near perfect balance between witty adult self-awareness and silly childlike imaginative abandon. It frantically mixes our perceptions and nostalgia for iconic characters and tropes with genuinely hilarious lines and good sight gags. It's a bit like watching a less soulful Toy Story movie while on a sugar binge. I mean this as mostly a compliment.

Lego-emmettdrives

Though it doesn't have the visual flexibility of many animated greats — those blocky LEGO figures arent known for their moving parts and the fight scenes are sometimes just explosions of bright color — it overcompensates with a rich understanding of the haphazard logic of how people actually play with LEGOs. One of the sweetest comic beats is a hilarious cut from close-up to long shot as the top of a tower comes off like an independently powered space ship. The action flips instantly from looking like top of the line animated visual f/x to clunky amateur playtime, complete with the faint "whoosh" like noises of a child providing the sound effects as the top awkwardly floats away.

The story, memorably reduced to slow motion "blah blah blahs" in one early excellent joke, is about an everday construction worker Emmett (Chris Pratt) who finds the magical "Piece of Resistance" (haha) with which he must become a "Master Builder" and defeat Lord Business' (Will Ferrel) and his evil plans to destroy the world with a weapon called "The Kragle". There are many other characters, but best-in-show honors is a two man battle between Vitruvius and Batman. Morgan Freeman, voicing the prophet Vitruvius, scores big deadpan laughs when he's spouting incomplete prophecies or surveying the insides of Emmett's brain which he describes as "prodigiously empty". But then there's Batman, with Will Arnett deftly mocking and celebrating the world's longstanding love affair with the pompous brooding hero. His theme song is absolutely priceless and Arnett does a better Christian Bale impersonation than the one Christian Bale was doing in The Dark Knight Rises.

Lego-batmanjerk

I tried to resist the movie. I know it's a crassly commercial ploy to sell more LEGO sets, and video games, and dozens more LEGO movies. But by the time it's brainwashy musical anthem "Everything is awesome" hit, I was sold and wanted to see the movie again and own it at home. And that was in the first ten minutes. The writer/directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord previously directed the surprisingly worthwhile 21 Jump Street (reviewed), which was itself sprung from a dubious source. If they're not yet quite the new Kings of Movie Comedy they're definitely Master Builders of the art of pre-packaged high concept brand movies. Since they built it, you should come.

 

ALSO PLAYING / RECOMMENDED
Leaving childhood well behind now. i went to see The Lego Movie as a distraction for the awful Farrow/Allen saga of the past week that's been devouring my brain. It worked… for a few hours at least. But there's a bunch of other good options in theaters providing beautiful escape. Most of the Best Picture nominees are still playing. Three of the best foreign films in a long time are also available: GLORIA, from Chile, is a wonderful comedy about a woman of a certain age looking for love that would snap the "Best Actress" trophy right up if some Hollywood star did a remake; STRANGER BY THE LAKE (previously reviewed), the gay erotic French thriller, is a must-see. Finally, you can preorder 2013's most critically acclaimed LGBT film BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (previously reviewed) which hits BluRay at the end of the month and see why GALECA (The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and other awards bodies kept handing it their Best Foreign Film prizes. 

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Comments

  1. Bernard says

    I saw it at th Arclight in Hollywood tonight and was not surprised that most, if not all, of the entire audience comprised of adults and young adults. I myself will try to see it at least 3 more times with friends and family.

  2. says

    Because everything else in the theatres was either dead in the water/ boring or a candidate for the Oscars (which most people have already seen)?

    Let’s look at the contenders:
    1. An ‘artsy’ movie about… Art. Vomit.
    2. Movies with titles that scream ‘Indy Art’, like ‘Cutie and the Boxer’, ‘Labor Day’, ’12 O’Clock Boys’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’
    3. Two universally hated stylistic action flicks: (Think ‘Skyline’ and ‘Battle: Los Angeles’) ‘Hercules’ and ‘I, Frankenstein’.
    4. Two “urban” films: ‘Ride Along’ and ‘A Madea Christmas’
    5. A Bubble gum pop film that only appeals to preteen girls: ‘Vampire Academy’
    6. The Oscar Contenders. Which the overwhelming majority of people who want to see these films have already seen them.

    When you put those six up against ‘The Lego Movie’ and you’re white, anti-intellectual, and older than 16 (as the overwhelming number of viewers are), you either a) stay home or b) see the ‘Lego’ movie.

    ‘John Carter’ would have been a huge hit against this field.

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