When the evil President Business (Will Ferrell) threatens to freeze the universe, it’s up to ordinary construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) to save the day, with the help of a wizard, a pirate and Batman. And it’s all made out of Lego.
It sounds so insane that it really shouldn’t work, but it does. The Lego Movie is one of those family films that will appeal to people of all ages, its U certificate representing the universality of its message and charm. Children will enjoy the bright colours and slapstick, while the adults won’t so much, with action so frenetic that it’s hard to tell what’s going on. And there is so much going on at all times, with layers of irony and sincerity piled on top of each other like Lego bricks. The film works best when it’s being satirical, and a dystopian universe run by an omnipresent corporation is pretty bold territory for Lego to be tackling. Bold enough for Fox News to take against it, which is the sign of a good film.
But the people of Fox News have nothing to worry about, apart from heart disease and never knowing real love. The Lego Movie isn’t exactly subversive. After all, it’s a feature-length advert for an enormous company which exists to capitalise on the success of other franchises. It’s hardly WikiLeaks. But the movie is about individuality, non-conformity and thinking for yourself, so it’s not exactly surprising that Fox News hates it.
Lego consists of uniform blocks and generic pieces, yet it’s all about what you do with them. This sense of imagination and creativity is vibrantly realised in The Lego Movie, whose design is ingenious. Part-stop motion and part-CGI, everything is made of Lego, or at least digitally rendered as if made of Lego. The characters, the scenery, the special effects, all built from blocks. This makes the level of characterisation even more impressive. As in South Park, the characters are designed so simply and with changing mouths as their only form of expression, but we still invest in them.
This is also down to the great voice cast, populated mainly by stars of American sitcoms. Chris Pratt is perfect as the everyman hero, Morgan Freeman is on distinctively fine form and Liam Neeson is just brilliantly funny. The Lego Movie also marks the first cinematic union of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, and sets the bar high for poor Ben Affleck. Will Arnett’s Batman is a glorious parody, who Morgan Freeman described as more dynamic and powerful than Christian Bale’s. He was joking, but he may well be right. Not to mention Nick Offerman, Elizabeth Banks and some surprising cameos.
Films based on toys haven’t always given us much to celebrate, thanks almost entirely to Michael Bay. But this is a notable exception, managing to fulfil its corporate brief while charming the Lego pants off the audience. Written and directed by Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs‘ Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it’s smart, funny and completely bonkers. Part-satire, part-advert and part-acid trip, The Lego Movie has something for everyone to enjoy. Apart from Fox News.