Even the wholesome simplicity of Legos aren’t immune to the onslaught of technology, as demonstrated by The Lego Movie, which also proves again that just about nothing is off-limits when it comes to cinematic adaptations. It might seem like a reach to base a film essentially on a series of plastic blocks, but this 3D animated comedy has some visual inspiration behind it, even if the big laughs aren’t quite plentiful enough to carry a feature-length production.
The story essentially follows the misadventures of Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), an ordinary Lego construction worker who stumbles on to a diabolical attempt at world domination by President Business (Will Ferrell) and his henchmen led by a two-faced cop (Liam Neeson). So Emmet turns from social outcast to unlikely hero as he teams with Batman’s girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and a blind man (Morgan Freeman) who dispenses pearls of wisdom in an effort to save the day.
The subversive script by co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street) succeeds best when trying to broadly satirize everything from superheroes to pop culture (although the aggressively shameless product placement along the way is a little excessive), a strategy it executes with a series of random rapid-fire one-liners and sight gags. Some are very clever, others fall flat, but the energy level can’t be denied.
The computer animation is amusing, as well, including a hilarious opening musical sequence. Lord and Miller seamlessly mesh the rudimentary real-life movements of the Lego characters — including the extreme waist flexibility, the interchangeable hairstyles and the strangely arched hands — with a fantasy world that’s sharply detailed.
Where The Lego Movie stumbles, however, is in its attempts to convey heartwarming nostalgia. Despite efforts in that direction, including a final-act twist that can’t be revealed here, the film doesn’t really replicate the magic of toys or the power of imagination, or the simple charms of constructing multi-colored plastic kingdoms from scratch. In trying so hard to push the Lego brand, the film unintentionally questions why watching it would be preferable to playing with the interlocking plastic bricks yourself. And it raises a good point.
However, the effort to cater to multiple demographics doesn’t cause the film to lose its edge, and it might even make its source material cool again. While the Lego toys might be simple and plain, the film version is most definitely not.