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New Release Review - The Lego Movie

The iconic children's toy gets a big screen outing.

Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Berry, Alison Brie, Anthony Daniels, Will Ferrell, Will Forte, DAve Franco, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, Jake Johnson, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Williams, Shaquille O'Neill




I know there's still nearly 11 months of the year remaining, but I am convinced that no other 2014 release will make me laugh as much, or as hard, as The Lego Movie. The gags come at a furious rate, the film features eye-popping animation, and there are enough clever easter-eggs to justify second, third, and fourth viewings for any fan (or former fan) of Lego. For 80 minutes of this movie, I almost never stopped smiling or laughing, which makes it terribly unfortunate that the last 20 minutes threaten to unravel every perfect thing that The Lego Movie did in the preceding one-and-a-quarter hour.
Emmet, just an ordinary construction worker, falls down a hole (a la Alice in Wonderland), and discovers a crazy world, totally unlike his own. Emmet is even more shocked when he learns that he is the 'Specialist', the fulfillment of a prophecy that will save the entire universe from Lord Business, who threatens to destroy the world on Taco Tuesday.
So, if you've seen any of the trailers, you know that The Lego Movie takes place in a world composed entirely of the Lego brand construction toy. But this is no mere marketing gimmick. The animation includes hundreds upon hundreds of clever Lego references that kept my eyes moving in vain hopes of catching every detail. I can only assume that I have only discovered a fraction of the intense detail put into this film. Not to mention a slew of amusing sight-gags that rival those of Aardman. The Lego Movie demands repeat viewings. And I am more than happy to meet this demand.
For the first 80 minutes of the film, the gags literally do not stop. I'd say there's at least five gags to a minute (not counting little easter-eggs in the background), and if you multiply that by 80, you get- well, a lot of laughs. The gags range from slap-stick to satire humor, social commentary, pop culture references, visual gags, etc. 
The satire and parody elements stand out, often downright mocking other similar films. Unfortunately, The Lego Movie falls into a very common pitfall for films that rely heavily on parody humor: It ultimately becomes the very subject of its mockery.
This is when we get to the last 20 minutes, which are not necessarily bad, but a dramatic departure from what came before. The gags seem to stop. They're actually still there in moderate supply, but because of how frequently they came before, the whole film seems to slow down. And the ending becomes something remarkably pedestrian and predictable in a way that one thinks that it MUST be intentional self-parody. But it isn't. For a film as ridiculous as this one, it's a shame it chooses to take itself so seriously at the end.
All of my problems with the last 20 minutes root back to the "twist." This is a spoiler-free review, so I won't give the game away, but let's just say that it's almost nothing a twist should be. In other words, it's not shocking, it's not inventive, and it's not good. I am convinced that The Lego Movie would be vastly improved had the twist been absent.
The voice cast is clearly having a lot of fun with their characters - all of which are extremely fun, and very memorable. Christ Pratt, in the lead as Emmet, gives an appropriately chipper performance, and Elizabeth Banks manages to expand upon the generic tough-girl, Wyldstyle - the most uninteresting of the main cast. The highlights, however, are indisputably Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius (featuring one of the best character designs in recent memory), as well as Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Charlie Day and many others. There are dozens of hilarious cameos as well, often voiced by major celebrities (but I'll let you discover them on your own). A brief cameo by Abraham Lincoln also gets a laugh, but one can't help but wonder if Daniel Day-Lewis was ever offered the role.
The score, composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, is an effective parody score. It jumps from genre to genre, amplifying the chaotic and hilarious environments. And yet, while it's amusing in the picture, I doubt it will provide a satisfying listen outside of the film.
The Lego Movie is 80 minutes of the funniest, most inventive, and ingenious animated cinema to grace the screen in years, and 20 minutes that are merely okay. The Lego Movie is so close to being a near-masterpiece, that it's painful for me to merely label it as a near-near-masterpiece. But all issues with the end aside, The Lego Movie is a must-see, not just for Lego fans and youngsters, but for audiences of all ages. The sheer amount of joy and fun contained within this film is unmatched by any animated film that was released last year. My face still hurts from smiling.
8/10


Joshua LF Mitchell

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