EJ Mangahas has sent me this review of The LEGO Movie:
A Movie Well Played - A LEGO Movie Review by EJ Mangahas
I was lucky enough to catch the press screening of The LEGO Movie last February 5 here in Manila. If you are like me you were a bit skeptical about this film. I was really afraid that this film about our beloved hobby would be a total disappointment. I mean, toy-to-film adaptations aren’t really the best way to make a nice film and to think, this is a totally branded film. However, that will all change after you see the film – guaranteed.
Brought to you by 21st and 22nd Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the LEGO Movie follows the adventures of an ordinary LEGO Minifigure, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) as he is mistakenly identified as “the special” by a group of master builders led by the prophetic Vitruvius – which is brought to life by the golden voice of Morgan Freeman – who are hell-bent to put a stop to President Business’ (Will Ferell) and his henchman Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) tyrannical reign over the LEGO universe. Emmet and Vitruvius are accompanied by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a free-spirited female master builder, Batman (Will Arnett), Benny the Nineteen Eighty-something spaceman (Charlie Day), a jaded pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and the ever-so-jolly Unikitty (Alison Brie). Also appearing in the film are the rest of the Justice League led by Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) and Wonder Woman (Colbie Smulders). Central to the film’s plot is the Piece of Resistance, an object that Emmet accidentally finds which is capable of stopping President Business’ mysterious Kragle weapon.
The setting takes place in Bricksburg - a city in the LEGO universe. Inhabitants of Bricksburg are “instruction-loving” citizens which happily obliges to the rules that President Business sets. They routinely live their lives by listening to same song, watching the same recycled trash TV material, and engaging in acceptable nay, government sanctioned activities. Indeed, this set up doesn’t allow them to discover the wonders of creativity and self-thought as they constantly just chew on what’s being fed to them. Unknown to them also are the different LEGO realms like the Old West, Pirate’s Cove, Middle Zealand and the “lawless” Cloud Cuckoo Land, which President Business likes to keep separate from one another.
While it is easy to dismiss the LEGO Movie as a kid’s film, it is something that adults will equally enjoy as it doesn’t talk down to them as an audience. In fact, while the movie is generally funny for all ages, some of the humour used will go over a normal kid’s head. Not only that, it tackles issues like oligarchy and conformity which are pretty grown-up topics. I love it that the LEGO Movie is a film about big business and how it can take over every aspect of a person’s life (from the media to services, consumerism to privacy) produced by LEGO and Warner Brothers which are both big businesses. The irony in that cannot be ignored. The movie brilliantly injects satire into the smallest of moments. While you will find yourself laughing at joke after joke, you will also get a moment of realization that maybe the joke’s on you – that it is funny because it is very real. This is the aspect of the film that cleverly uses the source material – LEGO – as an unlikely medium to portray very disturbing social realities.
But that is just one aspect of the film. In another aspect, it reveals LEGO as a tool for endless creativity. While technically a branded film, it is not afraid to poke fun at LEGO and take a slight jab at AFOLs for taking the toy too seriously; that while adults can enjoy the hobby, the toy is still ultimately for kids. My fellow AFOLs will enjoy the subtle references to everything LEGO in the past years shown in the film. From instruction manuals to part numbers, to retired sets and figures, you will have a blast trying to spot these hidden gems that only AFOLs will understand.
On the technical aspect, this film is really impressive. While it uses CGI, it incorporates real builds and creations that anyone (with the right amount of bricks) can easily imitate. According to a Warner Bro. executive, this film utilized 15 million – that’s right million – actual bricks. It is also a nod to the thousands of “brick films” (fan-generated LEGO stop motion clips) found online, only this time it is done in a larger scale. You will notice too that all the movements of the bricks and figures are faithful to the actual physics of the toy which makes it even more relatable. While it was expected that LEGO will use most of its properties (like Space, Castle, Fabuland, Blacktron, etc) in the film, it is also a treat to see Warner Bros use their licensed properties like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and DC. (This is technically the first time that the Justice League appeared complete in one major film and Wonder Woman’s debut on the big screen). There is also a cameo of a bunch of much-loved heroes and their iconic vehicle from a galaxy far, far away. This for me was the biggest surprise in that aspect because their license is owned by rival Disney Studios.
Voice acting-wise, this film showcased some surprising talents from big Hollywood names. We all know that Liam Neeson and the Morgan Freeman can narrate, but this is the first time that they flexed their vocal chords for a film as actors. In an interview, Morgan Freeman admitted to the challenge of being funny and acting with his voice which turned out pretty effective as his character Vitruvius delivered some of the movie’s most memorable punch lines. Liam Neeson was impressive as he was able to juggle to different voice in his character as Bad Cop/Good Cop.
I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express. As an AFOL dad myself, this film is particularly special for reasons I cannot discuss now as it will spoil the whole film. So if you’re an AFOL, this is a must-see for you not only because it is about LEGO but this movie is about you as well. You would never expect a film with the title “The LEGO Movie” to be brilliant in so many levels in both the story and the production. The film really does offer something to all its audience, this elevated itself from being just a kid’s film to a genuine family classic that everyone can enjoy.