‘Lego Movie’ pieces fit together perfectly

By Karsten Burgstahler

Product placement is out of control in movies today, especially in kids’ movies. Some movies can seem like giant commercials — in fact, a good deal of Disney films are engineered with the right characters to sell every product imaginable.

What directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller construct with “The Lego Movie” (Rated PG; 100 Min) is a genuine surprise, considering the film looks like just another product grab. And in reality, Warner Bros. executives probably see it that way. But in a nation where kids are glued to their TVs and everything is spelled out for them, a movie that encourages free thought in play is a welcome respite from the onslaught of quick-buck 3D conversions. (The movie does play in 3D, yes, but at least it uses the technology to its advantage.)

What sets “Lego” apart from bombasts such as last summer’s DreamWorks dud “Turbo” is the way it embraces its lo- fi qualities. It has a heart made of plastic pieces and wears it proudly, sometimes even revealing the strings holding it together. Lord and Miller use a simplistic plot to push the action along: Emmet (voiced by “Parks and Recreation”’s Chris Pratt) is a regular guy brainwashed like the rest of his Lego world. He mindlessly follows instructions to do everything from brushing his teeth to making friends to enjoying the No. 1 song, “Everything is Awesome,” which plays over and over again like a nightmarish “It’s a Small World.”


Emmet’s world is controlled by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell in Lego form, which looks stunningly like the real deal), who is sick of people who don’t follow instructions and plans to unleash a secret weapon on Tacos (the “s” is silent) Tuesday that will glue all of his Lego citizens to the ground.

This can’t be allowed to happen, and after Emmet is mistaken for a hero he’s dragged on a quest to stop Lord Business. From here Lord and Miller pivot from world to world, including stops in a Lego version of the Old West and one of a Heaven filled with unicorn/cat hybrids, all the while skewering blockbuster tropes. Although Pratt, Ferrell and Morgan Freeman get the best bits of dialogue, the real gem is Liam Neeson as Good Cop/ Bad Cop. Neeson uses his regular voice for Bad Cop but puts on a ridiculously happy accent for Good Cop. He also produces some of his own sound effects. A film has not played with its sound mixing this well in a long time.

The film’s pop culture focus occasionally becomes exhausting. But in what can seem like a barren wasteland of kids’ movies, sometimes when one finds the oasis it’s stupid to stop drinking.

As the movie moves closer and closer to the climax, Lord and Miller’s intentions become clear—this isn’t just about packing as many characters into a movie as possible to please fanboys, although there are quite a few cameos that will delight twentysomethings. It’s about the imagination poised to bring all these characters together, and the two directors celebrate this imagination by encouraging kids to use it.

For adults whose lives have become monotonous, this “color outside the lines” celebration can be reassuring. Those who grew up throwing aside the instructions are rewarded.

“The Lego Movie” is sort of a bait and switch, although no one will complain about the eventual outcome. Yes, audiences will get to see Superman and Green Lantern bicker. And if it happens to sell some toys, no one will be worse for the wear: kids would be a lot better off using their imagination than sitting in front of video games anyway. But once it has audiences captured and delivers its message—stop being so preoccupied with getting everything right—no one can resist the charms of “Lego.”

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at kburgstahler@ dailyegyptian.com, on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.