Active Ingredients: Pace; Creativity; Vocal performances
Side Effects: Conventional narrative arc; Overloaded visuals
In 1962, Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita was advertised with the famous tagline “How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?” The source material of 2014’s The LEGO Movie might say a lot about how the sources of our inspiration have changed in the 50 years since Kubrick’s film, but I thought about the Lolita tagline walking into this delightful and fast-paced animated feature. How would they go about “adapting” a line of children’s building toys into a narrative feature? As it turns out, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street) have made a sweet homage to the best of what these multi-colored blocks has to offer: creativity.
The LEGO Movie is about Emmet (a charming Chris Pratt). He’s a normal, average construction guy in a world of strictly regimented normalcy and averageness. Emmet and his coworkers all watch the same TV show (“Where Are My Pants?”), buy the same overpriced coffee and listen to the same peppy song (“Everything is Awesome,” an earwig that’s yet to leave my brain) without ever questioning why. As it turns out, a rebel force of “master builders” is working to dismantle the fascism and follow-the-instructions mentality of Emmet’s social order, and a chance occurrence labels Emmet “The Special” destined to lead the resistance.
The master builders are marked by an amazing ability to construct anything from the modular bits and pieces of the world around them. They can quickly build a rocket ship to escape danger or cover their tracks through a series of secret tunnels, but Emmet has to learn to embrace his creativity, instructions be damned. The LEGO Movie precedes along familiar fantasy conventions, but these narrative crutches—much like a set of storytelling instructions—belie the creativity the directors which to instill in young viewers, something they themselves exhibit in the visual design of their world. Indeed, The LEGO Movie is almost overstuffed, bursting with so many colors and small details that it becomes difficult to digest it all. (My favorite touch is a mystical staff made from the remnants of a green lollipop.)
The LEGO Movie works best when it reflects the same childlike imagination and unpredictability of play. And if it relies a bit too heavily on the instructions to lend some structure to this creativity, it can be forgiven.