Review: The LEGO Movie – You CAN Imagine A Better Movie

by Mike Reyes

I’d rather buy a freestyle LEGO set with the money spent seeing this disappointing, but mildly entertaining, kids’ film.

Emmett (Chris Pratt) is a normal Lego guy, in a normal Lego world. A world where President Business (Will Ferrell) owns everything, runs everything, and tells everyone to “follow the directions.” Unfortunately for him, this world seems to have forgotten he’s existed… at least until he’s found the “Piece of Resistance:” a piece with power foretold by Vetruvius (Morgan Freeman) to be the key to unlocking the world of conformity around them all. With the help of WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and a cast of standard “wacky, zany characters,” Emmett just might foil Lord Business’s plans to lock the world into a permanent status quo.

“Everything is Awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!”

This chorus of conformity, designed to paint the picture of a world where everyone’s minds are as stiff as their movements, has been sampled in many of the positive reviews for this movie. Odd how the very manufactured message of Lord Business and his evil regime has basically be blindly adopted as the biggest sentiment of praise for the film. Hell, if you type in “Everything is…” into Google, you’re going to see it on the top result. Go ahead, test my statement. I’ll wait.

It’s not that I don’t like Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s feature film work. On the contrary, I loved Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, as well as 21 Jump Street. Their mixture of humor and heart, when it works, makes for movies that are not only fun to watch, but highly ranked in my canon of films I recommend to others. Sadly, when it doesn’t work, it only yields minorly amusing results, with a dip in quality that makes me sad to say that everything is not awesome in LEGO Land. At best, I can say that this movie plays like a Robot Chicken episode for kids, with some points of stereotypical kids movie tropes and the usual “one special person” motif that movies of this ilk always seem to broadcast.

“It’s just a kids movie!”

I hate this statement with a passion. For decades, this statement has been used as a write off for anything that remotely looks like it’s been marketed to younger adults, and yet it’s a bold faced lie. You know what else is a kids movie? The Lion King, where Simba is faced with the realities of his father’s death, and eventually does what’s right to save his kingdom. Also, The Incredibles, where the theme of mediocrity versus talent is encapsulated in the venomous statement uttered by Syndrome, “When everyone’s Super, no one is.” Or, perhaps most effectively, the “kid’s movie” of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, where the message was that popularity is fleeting and sometimes false, whereas family and friends are much firmer to rely on. Lord and Miller have tread this ground before, and they’ve done it better with a “kid’s movie” as the vehicle. How they failed to do so with a toy system that encourages imagination and limitless possibilities is beyond me.

There’s A Good Critic Still Inside Me

As negative as I’ve been about The LEGO Movie, I must admit it does have its fair share of breathtaking action, well crafted visuals, and entertaining humor. Will Ferrell’s usual evil genius schtick hasn’t worn thin with me yet, and his entrance into this film is nothing short of memorable. Also, Liam Neeson manages to stand out with his Good Cop/Bad Cop performance, providing a lot of prop comedy to compliment his rather funny dialogue. And what review would be complete without heralding Will Arnett’s Batman as a rendition that manages to poke so much fun at the character that it practically makes the lackluster Romantic subplot manageable.

In the end, The LEGO Movie is about being a kid and having an imagination versus following the instructions. What the movie got wrong though is that following the instructions inspires a lot of great creations of imaginative whimsy. Artists tend to perform better when they have limits and a blank canvas, and perhaps that’s why this film doesn’t exactly measure up to Cloudy‘s more impressive pedigree. Whatever the case, it’s a safe bet that your kids are gonna love this movie, and ultimately it’s their vote that’s going to have the final say on this film. So adults be wary, but have fun kids! (And really, you could do worse for kids’ entertainment these days, i.e. Frozen.)

My Rating:  3/ 5