Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The Lego Movie

Film #424


An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.

Year 2, Film #59

THE REVIEW: Growing up as a kid, I spent a lot of time playing with Legos. The Harry Potter sets especially were my thing (I had all the castle sets through Goblet of Fire) and I made it an annual tradition to build them all when I was on winter break in elementary school. I have many memories associated with those little plastic bricks, both good and bad (true pain is stepping on a Lego brick while barefoot), and while I haven’t opened my sets in many years, I still have them all stored away in my closet back home. One of the reasons I’m starting off my introduction with a trip down memory lane is because The Lego Movie really taps into these memories. The film has a unique animation style that captures not only the playful, fun, and creative spirit of Lego, but the intricacies and movements of the bricks as well.

Something I find very helpful to do when writing these reviews is to compare a few films. This way, if you’ve seen one of the other films, it can provide a better gauge of whether or not you’ll like the new one. In the case of The Lego Movie, many parallels can be drawn with the 2012 film, Wreck-It Ralph and 1995 classic, Toy Story. What these films really excel at creating a universe that is incredibly detailed and highly realistic. Toy Story it’s children’s toys, Wreck-It Ralph it’s arcade games, and with The Lego Movie its Lego. These are all things we know and love, things we’ve grown up with, things that have a very nostalgic and sentimental feelings attached to them. What all three films do, including The Lego Movie, is take that thing — Lego — and give it life. It becomes fantastical while staying grounded. Simple things like the brick selection (transparent blue circles for water, smooth rectangles for books) and the actions of the minifigures (holding objects, walking across the floor with raised Lego holes) all add up to make this world feel like it has existed forever.

Another big draw to The Lego Movie is the multitude of references that are made. Wreck-It Ralph contained a handful of references (like the konami code, Nesquick sand, and many others), and so did Toy Story to a much lesser extent. The Lego Movie blows both of them out of the water and includes not only numerous external references (Star Wars, X-Acto knives, Titleist golf balls) but many self-aware jokes as well (one of the best being the Lego sets not-to-be-named). It’s a very funny film that doesn’t have too many jokes per se. A lot of the humor relies on a familiarity with other franchises and objects or at least an awareness that they exist. For someone like me for whom references and non-joke jokes are the basis of my humor vocabulary, The Lego Movie was laugh out loud almost from beginning to end. However, the style of comedy may not be for everyone although I’m positive that you’ll find at least a handful of moments where you laugh hysterically.

Where things differ a bit is where The Lego Movie takes a slight dip in my book. With both Toy Story and Wreck-It Ralph we were introduced to worlds previously unseen to us and they accordingly took the time to establish everything. Nothing was rushed and the ins-and-outs of how everything works was carefully explained. These fundamental building-blocks are vital to know whenever you enter a new world. One of my biggest issues with The Lego Movie is that the beginning started off way too quickly. Not even three minutes pass before the introductory scene is over and we’re thrown into the meat of the film. In that opening scene we’re introduced to Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) who is a wizard/prophet character and one of the best MasterBuilders, and the villain of the film, Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Pretty much the only thing you can glean from the opening is that Vitruvius is the good guy and Lord Business is the bad guy; enough to get you started but there’s very clearly a lot that is being held back. We also hear the prophecy around which the entire film is based. To summarize, Lord Business has a master weapon which can only be stopped by the piece of resistance that the Special will find. A basic and oft-heard story that is easy to grasp, but when it’s presented in thirty seconds, it’s easy to get lost.

The Lego Movie is the first 2014 film I’ve seen and it’s also one of my most anticipated films of the year as well. It had a high bar to meet and it easily met that high bar. You are taken into the world of Lego as you’ve never been before. This childhood obsession for many has been translated to the screen in an extremely detailed, funny, and accurate way. The playful spirit of Lego and the wide variety of sets are brought to life and the amount of references, both external and internal, ought to be commended. While the story is a bit basic and not well established, it does move the film along and get you from beginning to end with one very surprising twist. Any fan of Lego should definitely go see this movie as soon as you can. Anyone who has never played with Legos (there can’t be many, right?) should also see this movie. You may not enjoy it as much, but it’ll still be an entertaining experience at the movies and it might foster a passion for Lego that you ought to have.

The Lego Movie opens in theaters on Friday, February 7, 2014.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5