Playing with Legos and crafting a film are two identical activities. Both allow for limitless creativity, both become even more fun when instructions are ignored, both promote individuality, and most of all, both create an artistic voice for the “MasterBuilder” engineering every polished detail. Legos are the perfect toy (except when you step on one and end up in the emergency room) and are fun for all ages, so it’s only fitting that The LEGO Movie is equally riotous entertainment that the whole family will absolutely adore. It may only be February, but Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have built a strong frontrunner for any Best Animated Movie award 2014 has to offer. Brick by brick, the happy faces that Lego blocks create on a daily basis translate beautifully into animated hilarity, delivering a message that unlocks the “MasterBuilder” in all of us – an easily palatable emotional wallop to accompany such pure, blissful entertainment.
In a Lego world ruled by evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a narrow-minded man who only abides by strict instructions, one group of “MasterBuilders” look to topple Lord Business’ restricting ways. Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a wise old wizard, tells of a prophecy where one citizen would reveal himself to be the “Special” – the one man interesting and important enough to vanquish Lord Business for good. This is where Emmet (Chris Pratt) comes in, a typical little Lego man following the rules just as Lord Business expects, until he stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance and is mistaken for the “Special” one. Teaming up with an eclectic cast of characters including Batman (Will Arnett), a pirate named Craggy (Nick Offerman), and Emmet’s new love interest Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Emmet must save his Lego universe from the vile clutches of Lord Business – a task he is hopelessly unprepared for.
From start to finish, The LEGO Movie never ceases to deliver scene after scene of animated antics comparable to past Oscar winners. Getting past the jovial giddiness Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hagemen, and Kevin Hagemen all bring to their collaborative story, Emmet’s quest teaches important lessons to young children that still resonate inside adults struggling with “normality.” Emmet appears to be just another blank face in an identical crowd, but exploring Vitruvius’ prophecy unlocks the “specialness” inside each and every one of us. Emmet’s journey from “trying to fit in” to “blazing his own trail” remains sweetly heartfelt and emotionally respectful, empowering children to formulate independence. And, it’s also poignant enough to make older viewers harness their inner imagination that’s been stored away since childhood.
Populating this Lego-verse are prominent characters from many different sets – superheroes, cowboys, cartoon characters, and retro classics – all brought to life by an astounding assembly of stars. With a voice cast that includes all the names mentioned above plus the likes of Jonah Hill, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Channing Tatum, plus surprises better discovered on your own (visitors from another galaxy?), one has to marvel at the sheer starpower strength.
Sure, it’s all just voice acting, but as The LEGO Movie proves, going above and beyond for perfect tonal synchronization elevates animated characters into lifelike vessels who explode with personality. Emmet isn’t just a talking Lego, but an unlikely hero with a gigantic heart and chipper attitude thanks to Chris Pratt’s energetic enthusiasm. Anyone can provide a voiceover, but it takes a special actor to perform audible dialogue without any physical additions – and do so with invigorated passion.
Looking at the technical specs alone, The LEGO Movie brings animated beauty to entirely new and exciting levels. Not only are we given a 3D movie worthy of such technology, but our animators create a Lego world that looks, feels, and moves as if it were actually made out of those iconic plastic bricks. Each scene has a wonderful stop-motion feel, yet fluid animation marries clear, crisp and stunning visuals with tumbling bricks (water representation) and proper building mechanics. What Wreck It Ralph did for 8-bit animation (Fix-It Felix townspeople), The Lego Movie does for each yellow-faced, stiff-walking citizen. Proper respect has to be paid to a team of designers who never abandon Lego’s interlocking atmosphere, rivalling Hollywood’s most vibrant, eye-catching visual spectacles – shiny plastic and all.
I could continue gushing over The LEGO Movie for hours, but a point has to be made - Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have created a (near) perfect family movie experience. Children will be captivated by a high-flying adventure full of lazer blasters, unique Lego creations, charmingly funny characters, and a special everyman named Emmet who shows us anyone can be a hero. Likewise, adults will be left utterly speechless by the real life implications of Emmet’s journey, also being able to enjoy more mature jokes that reference cinematic milestones of old. No one is spared laughs, audiences are granted limitless smiles, and Lego walks away a winner after taking their first swing at Hollywood.