The Lego Movie

How do you build a computer-animated film from plastic interlocking bricks? You start by featuring an average Lego minifigure, a construction worker named Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt). He leads an ordinary life in Bricksville, where he follows “the instructions” set out by President Business (Will Ferrell), a seemingly benevolent corporate leader.

Emmet says what he is supposed to say and buys what he has to buy. He has no original thoughts, and, worst of all, no friends. A true blockhead, he sings with the crowd the infectious theme song “Everything Is Awesome,” even when his life is not.

But Emmet soon discovers he is the “Special” one, destined by a prophecy to overcome President Business, who is actually the evil Lord Business. Will Emmet be able to reunite the rebel Master Builders? Will he succeed in using the Piece of Resistance to quell Lord Business’s Kragle, a weapon of mass Lego destruction? And will the winsome Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) ditch her boyfriend to become his true love?

If you are wondering why Morgan Freeman doesn’t have a voice role in this film, then rest assured he does, as the Yoda-like Vitruvius. Liam Neeson also does nice work with the Bad Cop/Good Cop character, whose personality spins like a Lego minifigure head.

This spoof of every action and adventure movie ever made,combined with a broad critique of our consumer society, will keep parents much amused. At one point, Emmet must make a rousing speech to a council of Master Builders composed of Superman, Shakespeare, Shaquille O’Neal, Gandalf, Wonder Woman, and Abraham Lincoln, to name a few. All are, of course, in Lego minifigure form and create a marvelous mash-up of history, fantasy, and pop culture.

But it is the eye-popping and frenetic animation that really holds the film together and will keep kids glued to the screen. Buildings and objects transform madly as the action dashes through backdrops both wild and wacky.

The film has also much to please Lego enthusiasts. Old-timers like myself will experience remembrances of Lego sets from their childhood past. And all Lego users will notice how the plot raises the essential dichotomy the toy poses. Do you build the set, following the instructions, and leave the model on a shelf to collect dust? Or do you toss all the pieces in a bin and make your own irregular but original creations?

And here is the main message of the movie: how can you strike a balance between anarchic creativity and bland, rule-bound predictability? To use the film’s terms, what does “the man upstairs” expect of us? Without giving away the plot, it is safe to say the ending provides a pat answer that viewers of all ages should debate.

Another answer to the conformity versus creativity question is suggested by the film’s title: The Lego Movie.

On the one hand, this “movie” is nothing more than a 100-minute commercial for Lego products. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lego spin-offs and tie-ins have already filled toy store shelves. On the other hand, toy-buying parents will notice numerous winks and nudges about the follies of corporate America. And the film literally plays with pop culture icons. (Watch for the great spoof of Star Wars withHan Solo and Lando in search of a hyperdrive.)

In the end, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller succeed in constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing Lego into a plastic-brick-solid animated feature.

The film is rated PG for “mild action and rude humor.” The rude humor I can remember is of the very predicable sort about rear ends butting in. But the action scenes and especially the dialogue are actually quite intense and not for all young children. (Warner Bros.)

About the Author

Otto Selles teaches French at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., and attends Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.