The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie

I'm not sure whether to describe this film as "The Matrix by way of Toy Story" or as "Toy Story by way of The Matrix". Either comparison is apt.

The Lego Movie opens on a "minifig" named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), a friendly dimwit who, like everybody else in his happy little Lego-burg, follows the rules, does what he's told, and thinks life is great. (The city's catchy theme song "Everything Is Awesome" plays everywhere.) And then a beautiful, punkish, black-clad gal named "Wyldstyle" (Elizabeth Banks) shows up to tell Emmet that a) the life he lives is fake; b) there's an evil in control of this world; c) Emmet is said to be the Chosen One who will defeat this evil; and d) it's time to take Emmet to meet a mysterious black leader (Morgan Freeman).

Sound a bit like The Matrix to you?

I'm sure writers/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - who also gave us Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - are exceedingly aware of the Matrix comparisons. But after this familiar setup, The Lego Movie makes time to explore all kinds of crazy tangents, stuffing its "cast" with recognizable characters and filling its screen with so many tiny details you'd probably need to watch the film a dozen times to catch half of them. Especially as much of the story is propelled at hyperspeed.

Long story short: The Lego Movie is good clean fun for the whole family.

Now let's get to the part that bugs me.

(I may be giving away some plot points, so proceed with caution if it matters to you.)

Early in the movie, we see the bad guy, "Lord Business" (Will Farrell), threaten someone with a giant Band-Aid bandage. At this moment, it becomes clear that this is not some sort of alternate universe in which everyone is made out of plastic Lego bricks. These are all toys. And as other real-world objects show up (a rubber band here, a lollipop stick there), it becomes evident that eventually these minifigs - all CG, but with chunky movements as if they were stop-motion animated by kids - will eventually have some sort of interaction with the real world.

That's all well and good. But if the story seems to lampoon corporate-controlled conformity for a while, it all goes out the window in the third act when the whole existence of these characters and their magical lands is very clearly explained. And the explanation is very sweet, actually. But it's also toothless. It's a ploy designed to warm the heart and bring families together, but for those who enjoyed the hip-clever shenanigans that preceded this reveal, it's a letdown.

The entire story revolves around a basic philosophy that one should not follow the rules, but instead let their imaginations run away with them. This, presumably, is the Lego company's own selling point. But as someone who adored his Lego collection as a kid (in fact I kept building strange Lego structures well into my teens), I noticed that over the past two decades, the Lego sets have had fewer and fewer regular bricks, relying more and more on bespoke pieces that can't be repurposed as easily. In other words, Lego was dumbing down their sets and giving kids fewer chances to be creative. The Lego Movie's plot is, then, highly ironic, an irony that may in fact be lost on its very sponsor.