Monday, February 17, 2014

A trip around the blocks: "The LEGO Movie"

I had never heard of this movie before I saw the trailer last fall. And that trailer was ... wait for it ... awesome! So I didn't resist when the missus said we should take the kids to see "The LEGO Movie" on opening weekend. True, I'm not a big fan of opening weekends ... or sitting in a theater in general. (I'm rather old and cranky when it comes to the cinema these days.) But ... Legos! The seminal toy of my childhood. And maybe the preteen years. No matter. Let's move on.

Our story has an Everyman Lego named Emmet (Chris Pratt) just going about his life, building things according to the instructions and accepting everything President Business (Will Ferrell) says as fact. Why would you do anything else, especially when everything is awesome? Then one day, as a mysterious woman is knocking around his job site, Emmet stumbles down a hole and all of the sudden is bonded with a special block that pegs him as the key to breaking the rules about the "instructions" so Lego people can create anything they want.

Emmet falls in with a ragtag band that includes the mysterious woman, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and a wizard of sorts (Morgan Freeman), plus many others they encounter along the way. That's a big part of the great fun here, the different Lego pieces -- from superheroes to sports figures to a Unikitty (Alison Brie) to -- definitely my favorite, if only for sentimental reasons -- a classic astronaut Lego guy (Charlie Day), complete with faded planet logo on his chest and cracked helmet. When I saw that rubbed-off logo, it took me back.

Along with President Business, our heroes are challenged by a Bad Cop/Good Cop Lego (Liam Neeson). A word about these actors and their voices. Neeson's I flagged right away. Same with Arnett. Banks didn't take long, but I have to say ... Pratt and Ferrell, if you don't see them and they're not going too overboard ... they didn't come to me for a while. (No need to mention Freeman here, since he's both obvious and omnipresent in movies these days.)

The movie follows Emmet and Co. as they try to figure out how to overcome the "Kragle" and keep Business from freezing everything as he thinks it should be. This gives us the chance to see all sorts of phenomena in Lego form, e.g. flames, water and smoke. As for narrative, Emmet soon is revealed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time vs. a true savior, but the group perseveres, moving across various Lego lands. No question it's fun to see all the pieces interact, and there are plenty of jokes for the grown-ups, too. I might have felt slightly let down after the grandeur of the trailer, but still plenty entertained.

Eventually we get not only the showdown with Business but also a full understanding of this Lego world in the greater universe. I admit I didn't see that coming and thought the last 20 minutes were not only a little surprising but also pretty sweet. Throw in a another funny twist at the very end, and I came away from "The LEGO Movie" not dazzled but definitely satisfied ... and jonesing for a 500-piece spaceship set.


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