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REVIEW: “The Lego Movie”

REVIEW: "The Lego Movie"

The Lego Movie is
a textbook example of a film that’s “review proof.” Whether critics like it or
not – or whether it’s any good or not – it will make money because every little
boy in the country will insist on being taken to it, probably multiple times. Boys
could do worse – and often have in recent years. The Lego Movie is often clever and funny, although it could easily
have been better.

Emmet (voice by Chris Pratt) works on a construction crew
building skyscrapers in a Lego city, but he’s so crashingly ordinary, neither his
co-workers nor his neighbors really notice him. That all changes when he
remains at the construction site after hours and (literally) stumbles onto Wildstyle
(Elizabeth Banks), a girl covertly rummaging for a special relic. When Emmet
fell, he got something stuck on his back. It’s the Piece of Resistance, the legendary
object that the seer Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) says can stop the super weapon
Kragle from destroying the world – if it’s used by The Special, the character
fated to save the world.

Not coincidentally, President Business (Will Ferrell) is scheming
to use the Kragle to freeze the entire Lego universe into a lifeless stasis.
He’s dispatched hordes of agents, led by Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) to
capture The Piece and destroy the cabal Wildstyle belongs to. Her attempts to
keep Emmet and The Piece out of Business’ hands lead to a long series of chases,
fights and adventures. The rebels and the forces of repression eventually meet
in a confrontation that goes on far, far too long.

The Lego Movie is often
entertaining and surprisingly literary. The Master Builder Vitruvius is named
for the Roman architect-author. In Cloud Cuckoo Land (the setting for Aristophanes’ “The Birds”), Emmet meets a nicely incongruous assortment of  supporting characters including Unikitty (Alison
Brie), an ultra-cute anime spoof, obviously added to attract little girls; a
none-too-bright version of Batman (Will Arnett); ex-Laker Shaquille O’Neal (as
himself); and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels).

Most of the humor is delivered tongue in cheek, in the style
of The Simpsons and Adventure Time. When Vitruvius calls for “Michelangelo,” the audience sees the bearded Renaissance artist – then the Teen-Age
Mutant Ninja Turtle.

In a welcome change, Emmet is the not another example of the
unappreciated, think-outside-the-box nerd who’s been at the center of so many
recent animated features. Emmet never thinks outside the box: He IS the box,
and his ordinariness runs deep. He follows instructions not just to the letter,
but to the serif.

The animation is generally simple and staccato, as it has
been in the Lego TV shows, but the settings are much more elaborate. The
filmmakers provide huge, lavish sets and some pleasantly imaginative special
effects. The entire world really looks like it’s made of Lego, including the
oceans, clouds, smoke and stylized explosions.

Unfortunately, that visual imagination is often negated by
the filmmaker’s failure to realize that every story has an appropriate length.
The movie is easily 15 minutes too long. The final, wearily repetitious
battle-confrontation lasts just short of forever. It’s a forgone conclusion that
Emmet will go from nerd to savior of the Lego universe, just as it was a
forgone conclusion that Luke would destroy the Death Star. But would Star Wars have been a hit if it had
taken Luke a wearying 20-plus minutes to fly through the metal canyons to reach
the thermal port? Sadly, The Lego Movie
wears out it welcome needlessly. Stronger direction from Phil Lord and
Christopher Miller could have yielded a more satisfying film – something the 13
credited executive producers might have noticed. (What do all those people actually
do?)

Whether the little boys who make up target
audience will care about the excessive length remains to be seen. They’ll
insist on seeing The Lego Movie on
its opening weekend—and on being bought more Lego toys after seeing it. Parents
may find themselves squirming in their seats, checking their watches, 
and wishing there were some M & M’s left in the bag.

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