Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Lego Movie Review: Everything is Awesome

The Lego Movie shouldn't be good. It's one of those movies that seems destined to be a desperate cash grab/two-hour commercial. It's supposed to be obnoxious and loud and pandering. It's supposed to be so bogged down with big-name screen actors in lieu of actual voice talent that it sounds terrible.

The Lego Movie is not good. It's awesome.

What a twist.
Okay, that was a pretty lame way to start a review. But as soon as you dive into The Lego Movie, you'll be more than willing to join in using its favorite word. They even wrote a song about it.

It's one of those movies that can change your entire mood in a couple hours - it's in that same camp as Singin' in the Rain or The Muppets. I was really grasping for something to dislike about it, and I guess it could do without ten or so minutes.

Otherwise, Lego is way better than it has any right to be. My biggest concern going into it was how it would use the hundreds of Lego brands and third-party franchises. Fortunately, it all goes pretty smoothly. Popular characters more relevant to the story, like Batman, aren't treated with the "oh, look who we got the rights to" attitude you'd expect. They're just as important as everyone else and no more. Lego also gives some much appreciated references to classic moments in Lego's history. The movie comes at you like, "Did you forget about Bionicle and that time we were, like, all about sports? Because we didn't."

Ooh. Right in the childhood.
You could argue that the voice casting dips a bit into "name that actor" territory that so many other animated films inhabit. Yet, Lego keeps such a brisk pace when it comes to introducing and referencing the characters you probably won't notice. Everyone does a pretty great job, too; it's nothing revolutionary, but they all do well.

Weirdly enough, Lego is one of the most cleverly written movies I've seen in a while. It has a consistent delivery of great jokes other comedies hope for. It's not difficult to see how this came from the team behind the excellent 21 Jump Street reboot. That being said, the majority of the humor is obviously aimed at adults. This is not to suggest the jokes are explicit or inappropriate - they're not - but kids probably won't catch everything. But let's be honest: this movie isn't for kids, it's for us.

You have no business here.
My favorite aspect of Lego is easily the animation. It uses a combination of CGI and stop motion, but it ultimately always looks like stop motion - and it's beautiful. This might as well be the best Lego fan film ever made, and I say that endearingly. There's some crazy detail on display here; even the CG animation is designed to showcase characters' textures, flaws in painting, scratches in cracks, and fingerprints. There are friggin' fingerprints animated onto the characters.

Unless you've never felt the joy of constructing a set, or the heartbreak and despair of stepping on a brick, or the hatred for other human beings felt when they just don't get your Lego design (as expertly portrayed in the movie), I can't recommend The Lego Movie enough. It's the best possible outcome for a movie based on a product, all wrapped up with beautiful animation and a pleasant story told by a solid cast. It's been a few hours since I saw it, and I'm still pretty jazzed about the whole situation. Everything is indeed awesome.

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