The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Lego Movie

Even as a kid watching Toy Story, I was aware of what I was watching, of how truly good it was. As I've gotten older and revisited it while watching on my own, with my niece, with my cousins, I really appreciate what a great, innovative, unique, creative story it is. That's a stand-alone statement, a movie statement in a bubble. How else has it impacted movies? Animated movies haven't quite been the same ever since, Toy Story's influence especially seen in Wreck-It Ralph and most recently with 2014's The Lego Movie.

In the universe of the Lego, an ordinary construction worker, Emmet (Chris Pratt), has spent his whole life trying to be a part of the group. He wants to be liked. He wants to be accepted, and he likes his life -- rigid though it may be. One day after his shift on a construction site, Emmet sees something strange and rather than report it, he investigates. A mysterious, beautiful woman, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is lurking around the construction site, and when he follows her, Emmet actually discovers a mythical object, the Piece of Resistance. His discovery leads Wyldstyle to believe that Emmet is the prophesied Special, the key to the resistance against President Business (Will Ferrell), seemingly a good president for Lego Land. Wyldstyle and a small group of Legos, the Master Builders, including their leader, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), are fighting against President Business and now, Emmet could be the unwilling, unknowing key to it all.

When 'Lego' was released in February, I wanted to see it in theaters but just never got around to it. The reviews almost uniformly glowed, and audiences ate it up with a current box office total internationally of $467 million. And in the end, it is excellent. Lots of talent assembled to lend their voices to the story, a very unique jumping off point, and creative in the same way Toy Story and its sequels are. Director Phil Lord and Christopher Miller do something familiar and make it memorable. Yeah, some party poopers criticized the movie for being one huge advertisement for Lego, and to a point, I suppose that is fair. But this is a movie that's more than that. You think it is one thing, and it goes somewhere else, but that's all for now. Some quasi-spoilers later maybe.

Like the best, the most memorable animated movies -- whether the modern age of CGI or the old school drawn cartoons -- there's got to be something that sticks with you. Here with 'Lego' it's something special and unique that will sound almost stupid describing it. Yeah, it is a world of Legos. Duh, right? Obvious but innovative. When a building gets knocked down, you hear the thundering....clicks of all those pieces moving around. When a water tower collapses, little blue "water" pieces rush after characters. When Wyldstyle adjusts her hair, that hair moves in robotic fashion JUST LIKE a Lego piece would. It sounds dumb, but those little touches go a long way in providing some great moments, putting a smile on your face. 'Lego' is full of such moments, in jokes for adults while still providing some laughs for the kids in the audience. That's where the best animated movies reside, somewhere in between, good for adults and kids.

I loved the voice talents assembled here. Some are recognizable the second you hear them speak while others take some thinking on as the story develops. A rising star in Hollywood, Pratt throws himself into the body of Emmet, our not so intrepid construction worker who could save the Lego world...or maybe not if he chickens out. Banks too commits, having some fun as Wyldstyle, a fiery counter to Emmet's generally quiet, well, everything. Freeman has some fun as Vitruvius, the wise elder who seemingly knows everything and serves as a guide and mentor of sorts to Emmet. The other Master Builders who become part of the crew include a clueless Batman (scene-stealing Will Arnett), ever positive Unikitty (Community's Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day), a 1980s spaceman frustrated with modern Lego technology, and Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), a pirate mutant with all sorts of enhanced body parts. It's a fun crew with a lot of variety, a bizarre-o version of the men-on-a-mission formula.

But wait, there's more! I'm a big Will Ferrell fan so it's always cool to see him throw himself into a fun part like this. His Lord Business is a great villain, over the top and goofy and always ready with a laugh. His enforcer is an equally scene-stealing Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop, able to twirl his head around within a conversation, an excellent site gag. There's plenty of other voices to listen for including Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern (desperately trying to be friends with Superman). Without giving too much away, also look/listen for Will Forte, Dave Franco, Shaquille O'Neal and a few others sprinkled in here and there. It's the randomness that works, especially when the Master Builders council is called, assembling all of the above with Shaq and the 2002 NBA All Stars, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a feuding Gandalf and Dumbledore, some historical heroes and then there's Emmett, a regular old construction worker.

So all well and good, right? And it is. It builds to something special here that as I look back on it is criminally straightforward. It feels weird saying this with an animated movie, but there's a heck of a twist in the final act that brings the movie together, even managing to take the entire movie up a notch or two. I LOVED this twist. It makes a good movie into a great one. There are hints along the way, but I wasn't expecting it at all. This is a smart, funny flick that delivers a message without being heavy-handed about it (We all have talents and skills. It's just a matter of finding your place with those talents). Also, it's funny in a self-conscious way, including two songs, Everything is Awesome by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island -- listen HERE -- and my personal favorite, Batman's self-written theme of sorts (listen HERE), Arnett absolutely nailing it.

An easy movie to recommend.

The Lego Movie (2014): ***/**** 


  1. You were a kid watching TOY STOY? Okay, you are younger than me. I was in my twenties, and I loved TOY STORY, for it had a great... story. As for LEGO MOVIE, I was very displeased with, among other things, a giant corporation making a movie that despises Capitalism. This after I paid money for my nephew and I to see it. Loved the Star Wars cameo, though.

  2. Haha yes, I was 10 when Toy Story came out.