Monday, February 10, 2014

Theatrical Review: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie (2014) Poster

Date: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Time: 2:15pm
Party: 3 (mom & sister)

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Type: animation
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh

Emmet- Chris Patt
President Business- Will Ferrell
Wyldstyle- Elizabeth Banks
Batman- Will Arnett
Vitruvius- Morgan Freeman
Good Cop/Bad Cop- Liam Neeson
Unikitty- Alison Brie
The Astronaut- Charlie Day
Superman- Channing Tatum
Green Lantern- Jonah Hill
Wonder Woman- Cobie Smulders
Metal Beard- Nick Offerman
Finn- Jadon Sand

[Opening Remarks]

With all the big movies out right now, all the Oscar contenders, you'd think my first review of the year would be one of them...

My first review goes to an animated movie that as soon as I heard about it, I wrote off. My exact words were:
"They're definitely playing to a younger demographic with this one, between the animation style and the cultural references. I'm a sucker for all those things, but I doubt it's something I'd pay to go see."

Technically, my mom paid for the tickets, but I ended up eating my words. Considering how often I pick out the movie, it seemed only right to let my sister suggest this one. We are suckers for cultural references and goofy animation, after all...

Not to say that I came in with zero expectations, but what little expectations I had... the payout was two-fold.
 [Coming Attractions]

We came in a little later than we should have, so during the remainder of the "Mr. Peabody" preview, we spent most of it trying to find seats.
This was the second showing on a cold Sunday when we were expecting some snow. To which I say, never underestimate the power of kids dying to see an animated movie.

By this point, I'd grown a little tiresome of "Mr. Peabody"... DreamWorks is promoting it like crazy under the tutelage of it being a studio that released the Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda franchises... taking my resentment of the 4th Shrek movie out of the picture, they have done well with the others.
...admittedly, I'm still kinda pissed that Robert Downey Jr. pulled out of this movie because Marvel has kept him too busy to do much else. Not to mention the role went to the dude that insults oranges on the Minute Maid commercials. Yes, I know it's Ty Burrell from "Modern Family." That's just my inside joke .
On the other hand, I guess I can't be too upset. The movie looks so silly that he might have been better off.

Other previews include a teaser of the "Muppets" sequel and the Morgan Freeman narrated IMAX movie, "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar"...
When I saw the title months ago, I was afraid it was an unnecessary reboot of the DreamWorks franchise... but it looks pretty spectacular. All those years of seeing "Zoboomafoo," I had no idea lemurs actually leaped like that :-P


Here's the tag-line that'll accompany my postings of this review on social media.
"Shut up... you had me at 'double-decker couch.'"

Seriously, that was the one joke in the first trailer that kept me completely dismissing this movie. Some ideas are just too crazy for me not to appreciate and latch onto. That's the kind of person I am.

For the record, I was a Lego kid... not in the same big way as "The Man Upstairs" (that's an actual character in the movie and I'm not gonna spoil who that is... I'll let Google take care of that), but I did do  some Legos.
Namely, there was a Christmas where I asked for a Lego pirate ship. I don't remember how much help I had with putting it together, but it took a couple months. It looked pretty awesome on our dining room table 8-)

What's kinda amazing about this movie is that it has something for all ages. You have all the bright colors and imagines for the kids. During some action sequences, it's easy to see the amazing 3D animation potential. The jokes rang from so-so to ha-ha funny to even LMAO funny (for me, there were 2-3 scenes that had me laughing that hard).
For the boys, they had an astronaut, a pirate and DC superheroes. For the girls, they had a kick-ass female character called Wyldstyle, who supposedly had issues with picking a name, and Unikitty, who lived in this chaotic realm called Cloudy Cuckoo Land.

And for the adults who got dragged to this movie by their kids, there's some interesting political commentary to take into account as well.

The movie follow everyman, Emmett, a construction worker among 1,000's who follows "the instruction" to a tee. We're led to believe he does the same thing every day because that's just the way it is in Bricksenberg.
By accident, he stumbles across "the piece of resistance," the only thing that can stop Bricksenberg president, President Business from unleashing the dreaded "Kragle" on TACO Tuesday.
(The "Kragle" is actually tube of Krazy Glue with some letters scratched out and the evil plot is encasing the Lego Universe in Krazy Glue so nobody will be able to defy the instructions again).

Emmett is then recruited by blind wizard Virtruvius and his top student, Wyldstyle to save the world. Supposedly because whoever finds "the piece of resistance" must be "The special", a Master Builder, the most important person in the universe.

But they and their allies, which include Batman and Unikitty, quickly learn he might not be the most qualified person. Apparently he'd spent his life following the instructions so well that he has nothing else going for him to set him apart. Plus the "double-decker couch" was the only original idea he could come up with... and everyone else seems to think it's the dumbest idea ever.
On the plus side, it goes make a couple appearances and actually saves their lives in one scene. After head of the Secret Police, Bad Cop sinks their ship, the only wreckage he and the micro-managers left behind was the double-decker couch... in which the heroes hid and eluded capture.

Even as a Marvel fangirl, I couldn't help but love how they used the DC superheroes in this movie. On the comedic side, we had this side-plot of Green Lantern dying to hang out with Superman, who wants nothing to do with him... and when they're captured by the bad guys, they end up in neighboring cells.
It's even funnier that their voices belong to Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, now known for their collaboration on the 21/22 Jump Street films...

Easily, the scene-stealer for me was Batman. It's interesting because he's played by Will Arnett, an actor I don't really take seriously, who plays the character in that phony deep-voice Christian Bale used to ruin the character for me... with him, it just works because this movie needed someone with a dry sense of humor.
There's also a love triangle involving him, his girlfriend Wyldstyle and Emmett... all kinds of hilarity, but the tops is the Star Wars cameo. As if it wasn't funny enough that Batman asks aloud where they'd get a hyperdrive and he gets called on it... he appears to jump ship for a couple minutes, only to come back and ruin a moment Emmett and Wyldstyle are about to have...

And just when you think you know what's going to happen, there are substantial curveballs...

[Political Commentary and (Possibly) Overthinking Things]

The commentary makes this movie out to be a statement against socialism and the utopian model... speaking out against conformity and all that. I've experienced it in "The Giver" and "Fahrenheit 451"... no matter how perfect you can make something, there's always room for anomaly and that one thing can cause a whole system to collapse. President Business spent years doing away with the Master Builders because they're individuals that create new things outside the instructions. No matter what they are, he sees them as a threat because going outside the instructions can only be perceived as chaos.

For a number of reasons, my favorite of the Lego worlds shown in the movie was the Cuckoo one. Batman might not like it ("I hate this place") and President Business did send Bad Cop to destroy it... it's crazy, but everyone was happy and it was just one big nerdgasm, something I can totally appreciate.
At the same time, the demeanor of Unikitty hints that not even that world is paradise. She spends the movie trying to stay positive, trying to keep her other emotions inside until she finally snaps. Kinda reminded me of the Amity section in the "Divergent" series... everyone is pleasant, kind and loving, but deep down their biggest flaw is that they're a little dumb in their being too trusting of other people.

Then I also got to thinking about how I think of Legos. I was never a master builder. I got as far as building that pirate ship with the instructions and I didn't feel up to doing more than that. Either because I wasn't creative enough or I was the kind of kid who preferred coloring between the lines than setting outside of them.
Nowadays, that's not quite as true, but remains an inherent flaw. Deep down, I do crave conformity because it would at least give me a place to fit in, but I have more fun when I write beyond the realm of possibility and listen to music outside the tastes of people in my age group.

[Remaining Comments]

I can't get through the rest of this without addressing the theme song.
In this conformist society, everyone does the same thing every day, everyone watches this show "Where's my Pants?" and everyone listens to the same song "Everything is Awesome!"
...based on the trailers, I was afraid it was going to be a brainwashing anthem of some kind. Instead, it became nothing more than the only song the radio plays and everyone is conditioned to never get tired of it :-P to my relief, they only played it through maybe 3-4 times throughout the entire movie. It might not catch on in household with young children the way "Let it go" has, but it still has that potential.

Taking Batman out of the equation temporarily (gotta face it, he had most of the best lines in the entire movie, lol), the biggest laugh I got out of it was when they finally let the 80's astronaut guy build his spaceship... and he proceeded to shoot everything across the realms while screaming "Spaceship!"
He was having so much fun with it, I couldn't help getting as much a kick out of it as I did :-P

In general, the cast was pretty good. It was more about the characters than the actors. Liam Neeson plays a pretty good Good Cop/Bad Cop character who actually has the two personalities... that is until President Business has his way and :gasp: erases the Good Cop face with a Q-Tip and Nail Polish remover.
Morgan Freeman is great in everything he does.

And Will Ferrell returns to play another pretty good bad guy. I enjoyed his voiceover work in "Mega-Mind"... which to me felt like it got diminished by the fact "Desipicable ME" got a sequel (an amazing sequel at that)... but he plays a pretty good baddie in this one too.
A control-freak dictator on the rise with very pronounced OCD. Seriously, only Will Ferrell could have played this guy... yet another idiot with a sense of entitlement, but yeah... coming out of the movie, I just felt bad that I didn't bother to see the "Anchorman" sequel.
If I'm lucky, my dad will see it in-flight on the way back from a trip overseas and can determine if it's worth picking up a copy... when it comes out.

Grade: B+

[Coming Soon]

#40 on my countdown:

A Universal animated film based on a true story that has a notable impact on my childhood.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Jackie. Though some will probably see this movie as a total joke, it totally isn't. It's a great time at the movies and will more than likely be able to entertain anybody who sees this.