Phil Lord and Chris Miller, directors of the Warner Brother’s “The LEGO Movie,” met each other at Dartmouth College. After being rejected for an animation job for “The Rugrats Movie”(1998) they began focusing their efforts on writing. Lord wrote for “How I Met Your Mother” starting in 2005 and alongside Miller directed the incredibly successful comedy “21 Jump Street”(2012). Their latest effort “The LEGO Movie,” in theaters now, is a hilarious 100-minute avalanche of virtual action scenes, pop-culture references, and successful satire that pours out of the screen and onto the audience. While the movie is aimed at children, the comedy is rife with subtle and subversive in-jokes that only older viewers will understand. Reminiscent of cartoons from the late nineties and the early aughts, many of the jokes rely on the ridiculousness of daily life in metropolitan America and the vapidity of prevailing social fads to achieve their impact.
Make no mistake: this movie is a two-hour-long Lego advertisement. However, the story of perseverance that accompanies the action is as touching and clichéd as one would hope for in a children’s film. Several live-action scenes near the end of the film bring it all back to reality, and the audience is treated to typical family-movie themes and motifs in a delicate, vibrant package.
The movie features a star-studded voice cast of: Chris Pratt (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”), Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games”), Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny”), Alison Brie (“Community”), Morgan Freeman (Morgan Freeman), Will Ferrell, and Liam Neeson, who give the movie its whimsical feel while simultaneously legitimizing the zany onscreen action. There is something truly perfect in hearing the voice of Ferrell as President Business, an evil Sorcerer/Tyrant who vows to end the Lego universe on “Taco Tuesday” by spreading superglue over everything.
Our intrepid protagonist, Emmet (Pratt), starts off his day, in fact every day, by following the instructions perfectly. Following the government-issued “Twelve Steps To Happiness” guide, Emmet proves himself to be a perfectly functioning member of the futuristic dystopia in which he lives. Calling himself a “builder”, the hero spends his days in a hard-hat gentrifying neighborhoods in Bricksburg by demolishing them with explosives while singing a catchy pop song where the majority of the words are “Everything is awesome!”
With the help of Wyldstlye (Banks) and Vitruvius (Freeman), Emmet realizes that everything he unquestioningly believed about his world was a lie created by the micro-managing dark lord Business. Both the president of Bricksburg and the CEO of Octan Corporation, Business plans to solidify the world with Kragle (Krazy Glue with the extra letters removed) to prevent anyone from building an original or flawed creation again. During a particularly poignant scene, Emmet loses innocence as he realizes that Octan Co. is not only responsible for manufacturing all pop music, but reality TV, surveillance cameras, food, and voting machines as well.
Young vs. old, good vs. evil, creative inspired invention vs. homogenous rote construction, this movie is full of seemingly immutable dichotomies. Fortunately for the audience, the distinctions become blurred and the film goes on, and in the end, you won’t know quite how to characterize the movie except as a wild, fun ride. “The LEGO Movie” will make you feel like a kid again. At least until the lights come on, but even then you’ll feel a vague yet lingering desire to just sit on the floor and play with plastic blocks.