Adventure, 100 Minutes, 2014
This is a completely formula, by-the-numbers family film. Bright, colorful animated characters voiced by famous people. Lots of jokes with popular references. Fast action! A simple plot! A super-sappy emotional message!
Folks, sometimes formula works. Sometimes formula works really, damn well.
Emmet is a regular guy just like any number of other regular guys. He goes to work on time. He likes the music that everybody likes. He likes the TV shows that everybody likes. But, above all, he always follows the instructions. When he gets caught up in a prophecy and group of freedom fighters, he finds out that his world is both in imminent danger and bigger than he could have ever dreamed.
Can he become what his world needs to be? Can he ignore the instructions? What if Batman helps; can he do it then? Because Batman totally helps.
Although computer animated, the genius of the film is that it doesn’t look computer animated. It looks like it was built with regular old legos in somebody’s family room. Most importantly, the characters move like Lego characters. This makes all the difference. In the direct-to-video Lego movies and video games the characters bend and squish like rubber. Here they strut and hop just as ridiculously as anybody that’s ever held one would expect them to.
It’s impossible to understate how important this is. Franchises like “G.I. Joe” or “Transformers” create universes in which the toys are “real” and then try to draw kids into them. Lego itself has tried this with some of its video efforts. With this movie there’s no question that these characters exist in our world. There’s a constant – and wonderful – sense that they’re moving and talking because somebody is making them move and talk. In every frame it’s as if there’s an invisible child… just playing.
It’s incredibly difficult to describe well, but the movie just plain gets it. It conveys the sheer joy of playing with Legos in a way that should be impossible in a movie. You know that amazing noise that a box full of Legos makes when it gets dumped on the floor? How it immediately kick-starts your brain and makes you feel like anything is possible? This movie is like that noise. With Batman.