The Lego Movie is the best movie yet of 2014 and could be in the conversation for best kids movie ever made.
Set in a vast, patchwork land of various environments reproduced in Lego, the movie follows Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), a standard construction worker piece who stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance, becoming the prophesized Special. An underground network of Lego people who are able to build anything out of spare pieces around them, called master builders, spirit Brickowski away so he can save the world from Lord Business (Will Ferrell). But they soon realize Brickowski is completely incapable of original thought processes, let alone saving the world.
Through overwhelming creativity, exciting action sequences and a barrage of well fleshed out themes, The Lego Movie rises to the level of genuine art. The commercialism that could have easily strangled this film is actually one of the primary things it rallies against.
The world in which the movie is set is absolutely dazzling. Animators push the Lego world as close as humanly possible to the real one. The Lego ocean has waves, and splashes of loose bricks when a piece dives in. Little plastic flames attach to bricks after explosions. I really wish it were stop-motion instead of CGI because that would be fantastic, but viewers won’t go wanting.
To list the themes this movie incorporates is to remember every individual scene. It is a dense, rich film. A short list is mass production vs. creativity, individual expression and reconciling the burning need to be special with the fact that we are one among 7 billion. Extremely strong Christian undertones pervade.
The mere fact that the film has themes isn’t its strength as much as its ability to inject them directly into the audience’s veins. The best example is the movie’s prophecy, in which the savior is referred to as “the Special.” The Lego Movie tells the same Hero’s Journey story the same way most American films tell it — the world as you know it doesn’t really count or is somehow dangerous and you, yes you and only you, have the power to save thousands. In adult movies this is very subdued, mostly because it’s stupid. In children’s movies it’s put just under the surface because it’s more important to society that children feel unique and important.
The Lego Movie recreates the Hero’s Journey way above the surface. Instead of simply subscribing to the necessary tropes or subduing them to try and fool people into thinking the plot is in any way unique, the movie uses dumbed-down obvious clichés and then attacks them viciously. For example, in the opening scene when Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) prophesizes the Special and the Piece of Resistance, Lord Business tells him he just made that up and kicks him down a fiery pit of death. Imagine Neo telling Morpheus he’s full of it, and you get the idea.
Where most movies try to manipulate the audience into feeling a certain way, The Lego Movie tells viewers how to feel and why they should feel that way. Whether or not that’s effective will obviously depend on the viewer, but because it stares clichés in the face, the movie controls them and not the other way around.
There is one downside — the sound gags are annoying. Viewers may regret their decision a few hours later when “Everything is Awesome” is still stuck in their heads. Other sound gags overstay their welcome, but won’t haunt once they’re done.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. It’s early February and J.K. Rowling has already ruined Christmas. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.