The Lego Movie
- Category: Film
- Published: Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:34
- Written by Jason Luthor
Children’s movies. For those of us in our 20s and 30s, children’s movies have been a part of our lives almost since we came to consciousness. Think about it. If you were born in the eighties you lived through Disney’s greatest era, the period of Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. At the tail end of the 1990s we got Pixar and Toy Story, not to mention other quality works like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and Wall-E. In the post Pixar period Dreamworks made a name for itself with the Shrek franchise, which made its bread and butter tearing apart Disney staples.
The rise of the ‘sophisticated’ children’s film has been a necessary creation of the 20th century. Adults need a reason to stay in the seats as much as children, and ‘kids’ movies work best on two levels. While children cry about Mufasa dying, they don’t necessarily grasp the drama at work in Halmet-like fashion, between a conniving brother that murders the king and potentially rapes his nice. Yes, Scar was that bad in that movie, within the subtext of the film.
The Lego Movie doesn’t play with such dark themes. Instead, it holds up a light to capitalism and creativity and asks what are we willing to sacrifice? On one hand, the movie highly values individualism. The heroes of the film are brilliant Master Builders that can create anything from a stack of Lego, whipping together submarines, rockets and a Batwing. On the other hand, this same film states that only by working together can we rise to success. While individually we’re all quite brilliant, together we achieve even more. In the words of Barack Obama, “You didn’t build that”, at least not all on your own. The great corporations are lead by titans of industry but they get tax breaks from the government, roads paid by taxes, contracts extended to them by politicians, etc. We all build on each other.
Its stand against homogeneity is apparent in two points. President Business wants to build an unchanging Lego world in which there is one amazing tv show, one amazing song, and an unmoving population that is permanently in a state of illusory happiness. Literally, he wants to krazy glue them into place so that they are unchanging.
The theoretical opposite of this is Coo Coo Land, a land of permanent happiness but where everyone has to smile all the time and always be at their happiest. Neither is a Utopia, and only in allowing characters both from Coo Coo Land as well as the normal Lego World to indulge the full range of emotions do the characters receive satisfaction.
Capitalism in the U.S. has bred, to a degree, a homogeneity, so in this way the Lego movie can be seen as not anti-capitalistic but pro diversity. Diversity is an ongoing issue in the country and there are, undoubtedly, many people walking away from the film at least partially offended. Still, for all the topics it tries to address, the movie has a solid, emotional heart.
The overarching conflict is, of course, President Business’ attempt to krazy glue everything into permanent stasis. A prophecy states a hero will prevent this, leading to the typical hero’s quest in which Emmet, an ordinary Lego construction builder with few innovative or redeeming features, somehow becomes the “One”. Think Neo of the Matrix, here. Of course his skills are far below par and his fellow heroes, including Lego Batman, are constantly disappointed in him. The course of the film sees his development not into a hero only due to his personal skills, but in how he inspires those around him to cooperate for a greater good.
Some have said it’s just a typical action film, but typical action films don’t normally so strongly push for heroes as a collective versus the Lone Ranger archetype. The film subverts action tropes, buying into them, presenting them, but making them so outrageously over the top as to border on hilarious. The strong performances by the cast are constantly engaging, their dialogue sharp and witty and always intriguing. Peripheral character Superman, for instance, is constantly annoyed at the side kick attempts of Green Lantern to hang around with him at all moments. Batman constantly talks up his independent heroic streak, shortly before departing with Lando Calrissian and Han Solo aboard the Millenium Falcon. Time and again the movie takes on action tropes in a way that can only be done using something so absurd as Lego.
Finally, the emotional core cannot be fully addressed without ruining the film’s twist ending, but Will Ferrell’s performance here, across the board, is applaudable. Both as a bombastic and egotistical villain as well as a sympathetic character, he constantly wins the screen against anyone else he’s playing against. If people ever do fully tire of his physical film work, his future as a voice actor is guaranteed.
By the end, the film’s message to live fully, live with a streak of independence, but don’t shy away from others and cooperation from time to time, really struck a nerve. It’s a fine balance we have to strike in life, but one with a great payoff in the end.
4 / 5 Stars