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On Review: 'The LEGO Movie'

February 28, 2014

Editor's Note: This monthly installment of movie reviews by Spirit and Jefferson County Neighbors' reporters Matt Triponey and Dan Long rates The LEGO Movie.

Plot Recap: An ordinary LEGO mini-figure gets swept up in an evil businessman's plot to destroy all of the LEGO worlds.

If you build it, they will come.” Well, wrong movie, but the quote still applies, as film enthusiasts have been going in droves to see the funny, witty and one-of-a-kind LEGO Movie.

Early on in the The LEGO Movie, the audience is completely immersed in a vibrant and enchanting world made completely out of LEGOs. The film remains totally committed to the concept throughout its duration, as everything from the buildings to water and smoke are totally LEGO-based creations.

The LEGO Movie also has an animation style that is completely original. The choppy movement of the LEGO characters feels authentic and is a refreshing change from the barrage of CGI animated films that get released every year.

Though the movie may seem like a clever marketing ploy for its product, The LEGO Movie is anything but, as it is genuinely funny and delivers a message that resonates with both kids and adults.

Its messages of believing in yourself, conformity and imagination are a bit straight forward, but that can be forgiven in a kid’s movie, as subtlety might miss the mark with a younger audience.

The film, especially toward the end, truly exemplifies the reason why LEGOs exist. In a surprising and unique way, The LEGO Movie ties the film together at the end in a way that few films can, but I will not spoil that.

Where The LEGO Movie truly shines, though, is in its characters. Each character has a distinct brand of humor. Whether it’s Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) rhyming about the prophecy, Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) providing terrible suggestions or Batman (Will Arnett) acting tough, each LEGO provides humor in his or her own way.

The film’s success can be credited to directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The pair are masters of creating witty comedies that the whole family can enjoy, as they first demonstrated with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

The LEGO Movie builds upon even that film, as it did not feel the need to include any gimmicky characters, like the monkey “Steve” from Cloudy, and teaches a much more pertinent message.

A few times in The LEGO Movie, the comedic bits did feel a bit overused. The Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) routine felt a little overdone, as did Princess Unikitty’s (Alison Brie's) pent-up aggression and Benny’s (Charlie Day's) desire to build a space ship.

However, the film does take time to poke fun at its own product. LEGO fans will notice its directions, numbered pieces and classic sets being referenced several times throughout its duration.

LEGOs clearly has an abundance of licenses under its name, and a great deal of them are present in the film.

Some of their appearances were funny, like when Emmet kept calling Dumbledore “double door,” and the relationship between Superman (Channing Tatum), and the needy Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) was comical.

Also, the 2002 NBA All-Stars’ cameos were just too obscure to not be funny. Other times, however, it felt forced, like when — SPOILER ALERT — the Millennium Falcon shows up with Star Wars characters for a brief moment.

A few of the characters, like Superman, Green Lantern and Metal Beard (Nick Offerman) were funny and could have benefited from more screen time, especially given the big-name actors that voiced each LEGO Master Builder.

All in all, though, any complaint I can register about The LEGO Movie is a minor one. It is a clever, funny and unique film that I highly suggest everyone should go see.

Rating out of 5: 4.5

— By Dan Long

* * *
I am completely embarrassed by how much I like The LEGO Movie. Actually, "like" isn't even the right word. Love. I love The LEGO Movie. That feels really weird to say.

It's proof positive that a great way to get me into the theater is to make your movie really, really good, and an even better way is to make me so curious I can't stand it.

I saw this movie at the earliest possible opportunity mainly because I didn't quite believe it could be that good, but if it was, I absolutely needed to know how they'd pulled it off.

But it is that good. Somehow.

At this point, I think it's safe to say that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's output has been no fluke. Who would've guessed that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, of all things, was going to launch a career this fascinating?

I suspect they'll get a lot more work and even more respect after this. They took a movie about plastic brick people, transparently made for the sole purpose of selling toys, and turned it into something genuinely special that has a real chance of standing the test of time.

It goes without saying that The LEGO Movie is hilarious. Lord and Miller have yet to produce a single film that is not unrelentingly funny from start to finish. They're really good at finding and sustaining this fast-paced, energetic tone that could easily become obnoxious and overwhelming but never quite does.

The jokes-per-minute count in The LEGO Movie has got to be some kind of record-setter, and I'm not going to say that all of them land, but most do. And given the sheer volume, that's plenty. There's a lot for kids and adults alike. It also contains the most pitch-perfect parody of Batman I've seen in a while.

Visually, the whole thing is just gorgeous. It would've been so easy to slack off in this department — make them look vaguely like LEGOs, throw a few vehicles in the mix and then just generate a few generic backgrounds.

But not only does this movie go the extra mile in making sure its characters and backgrounds are lit and textured like physical objects you could actually hold, it also plays a lot with the fact that this is a LEGO world — there are LEGO seas and LEGO clouds and LEGO grass, and even the explosions are made up of a bunch of LEGOs. It's pretty impressive.

But the craziest thing about The LEGO Movie is the surprisingly layered intelligence of its script. Firstly, it knows what it is — it's goofy and fun, and it functions exclusively on kid logic. It goes for sheer joy rather than contemplation or deep emotion.

But then, it tries out this incredibly risky and fairly unique ending in order to tug at your heartstrings a bit, and it does that by quietly telling an entirely different story in the background of the main events, without the viewer noticing, and then revealing it at exactly the right moment and achieving something surprisingly heartfelt.

It seems like such a simple thing, but you really could write entire books on how precise the writing needed to be in order to pull off that ending.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm pretty sure The LEGO Movie is the best American animated film since Toy Story 3.

Rating out of 5: 4.5

— By Matthew Triponey

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