The Lego Movie (2014)

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I almost gave The Lego Movie 10/10. In fact, as I write this review I am still wondering just why it’s not getting a perfect score, because I can’t think of any faults. I guess the very nature of the film dictates that some of the frantic action and comedy set-pieces are a bit hard to follow, just a bit . . . . . . . . . . busy. But that’s because it’s a movie world of Lego. EVERYTHING is either created to look like real Lego, or as close as possible to it. And for someone like myself, an only child who spent many days with either books firing up my imagination or my buckets of Lego being built into the craziest designs that popped into my head, it was just about the perfect Lego movie that I never knew I wanted.

The plot of the movie runs thus: Lord Business (Will Ferrell) defeats the good Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and gets his hands on the Kragle, a deadly weapon that could end the universe as the Lego folk know it. Fast forward by eight and a half years, Emmett (Chris Pratt) is a good citizen in a Lego world ruled by the man who WAS Lord Business but is now President Business. Emmett follows instructions, builds what he is told to build and generally behaves himself. His world is turned upside down when he sees the beautiful Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and then falls down a big hole that ends up with him landing on the Piece Of Resistance. A prophecy says that whoever has the piece will be a master builder, someone capable of stopping President Business and saving the world. But President Business certainly doesn’t want that, and he’ll use his best man, the all-in-one GoodCop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), to ensure that it doesn’t happen. As the action heats up, Emmett finds out how he can use his abilities best. He also finds out that Lego Batman (Will Arnett) is a bit of a pain in the backside, some older characters (Benny, voiced by Charlie Day) are desperate to build their classic designs, and that there are many worse places to be than Cloud Cuckoo Land.

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There’s an element to The Lego Movie that’s hard to avoid. It IS one big, superb, advert for Lego. But, in all honesty, does Lego really need any major marketing boost, even in these lean times? Lego has always been a favourite toy, for all age groups. And, hey, the movie title ensures that people going into this should realise that this isn’t anything other than a celebration of all of those little bricks and accessory parts. It’s front and centre, it’s the very building block, essentially, of almost every scene, and it’s not something that could be removed without the entire movie falling apart (no pun intended). Unlike The Internship or Battleship, this is how to use a brand properly.

The voice cast assembled for this movie is superb. As offbeat as all of the characters are, everyone seems perfectly suited to their roles, whether it’s Pratt as the potential hero who has no confidence in himself, Banks being as good as ever (I still love her, even in Lego form . . . . .  is that so wrong?), Ferrell as the villain, or even the cameos from the likes of Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Nick Offerman and Shaquille O’Neal. And anyone who has seen the trailer may already suspect that Liam Neeson gets to steal almost every scene that he’s in as Good Cop/Bad Cop.

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But the vocal cast, as great as it is, pales in comparison to the sharp script (written by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), the wealth of imagination on display in every sequence, and the little details on display that provide extra laughs at every opportunity. I don’t think I’ve seen a film with such a high gag rate since Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker at their peak. The most unexpected treat that the movie provides, however, is in just how clever it all is. Not smug, but wonderfully crafted in ways that allows it to work on a number of levels simultaneously. As is the case with many family movies, there’s a message or two to be learned along the way, but even the slightly sappier moments are well handled, never outstaying their welcome before the jokes start flying around again.

Lord and Miller (who can thank Dan and Kevin Hageman for their help in shaping this story) are three for three at the moment. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is great fun. 21 Jump Street is, arguably, even better. This movie is their best yet.

Kids will love the characters, the sillier gags, lots of the details, and just the sheer amount of Lego onscreen. Adults will love the same stuff, but also revel in the nostalgia. This is for everyone who’s ever enjoyed playing around with Lego. And that, in my experience, is almost everyone.

The Lego Movie goes on general release here in the UK on February 14th. It may not be the first choice for anyone trying to make a romantic evening out, but it’s a real treat for everyone.

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WRITER/DIRECTOR: PHIL LORD, CHRISTOPHER MILLER
STARS: CHRIS PRATT, ELIZABETH BANKS, WILL FERRELL, MORGAN FREEMAN, WILL ARNETT, LIAM NEESON, CHARLIE DAY
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: AUSTRALIA/USA/DENMARK

Film Rating: ★★★★½

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