The Lego Movie
Time/place: 11:35 showing at Kaleidoscope
Everything is… eh.
To begin with, and as a reminder for those who may not be regular readers, I work at a Lego Store. No, we didn’t get free tickets, HOWEVER, the company does provide stores an allotment to have a Christmas party each year… so we postponed ours to use the money to go to a nice dinner and see The Lego Movie on Sunday night, because we’re brilliant. Long story short: the projector broke, they moved us into a 3D showing, I can’t watch 3D, they gave me a free readmission ticket, I went to see it this afternoon after an early truck shift at work. Okay, so long story turned medium.
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, the only thing that remotely interested me (though it interested me quite a bit) was the fact that the figures and pieces moved as real Lego figures and pieces do. I grew up playing with Lego, some of the first movies I made were with Lego, and to see these two elements coming together on the big screen was delightful. I was up for seeing the movie based solely on that, along with the hope that perhaps there was some enjoyment to be had with the non-visual aspects of the movie.
There was little enjoyment to be had with the non-visual aspects of the movie.
The movie’s getting grand reviews, but it played out pretty much as I expected; it played out as most modern, generic, child-aimed animated movies do. Folks have a good time with them, and I’m glad they can, but the humor just doesn’t do a thing for me. There were a few especially clever bits in the movie, and I did chuckle a couple of times, but I wasn’t too interested.. there was no real investment as I sat in the theater watching. Then something happens near the end (I can’t specify until the spoiler section below), and I thought the movie may have just turned around and done something brilliant, but it didn’t. There was so much potential to it, to the whole movie really, and I think it could have been deep, compelling, and fun (Pixar meets The Avengers, ideally), but instead it was mostly dull and surface-level (didn’t even get The Avengers). As I said, there were highlights, but as much as I wanted to love this movie… I simply didn’t.
However, and this is giant however, The Lego Movie may very well be the most beautifully animated movie I’ve seen – in large part, because it tapped into my own childhood movie-making past. Everything in the movie is made out of Lego pieces, often quite ingeniously, and I was regularly enchanted by just how great it all looked. There’s a moment where a character is driving through a tight space and through walls, and the camera turns to a POV shot… and we see the light reflecting off of the walls as it would if I was in there with my camera and a light bulb. I smiled at that, and so many more great moments. Haha, quite honestly, I think the fact that it looked so great actually made my disappointment in the story a little worse. It’s like having that rich friend who gets tons of Lego sets and doesn’t do anything good with ’em 🙂 . The movie actually suffers from the same fate that my own stop-motion movies suffered from, at a few points, where there is simply too much going on. The action occasionally got cluttered, but it wasn’t to the point of not being able to tell what was going on, it just felt too busy. Those moments were mostly rare, though, and I was able to spend the majority of my time just admiring how gorgeous it all was.
The Lego Movie is doing well financially, garnering praise from critics and the general public, and saying this may threaten my job security, but I just don’t think it was that good. In fact, the ensuing grade is held up mostly by the visuals. It wasn’t a dreadful movie and I’m glad I saw it (for free, at least), but it’s hardly something I’d recommend – it simply could have been so much more. I’ve heard of comparisons to the Toy Story trilogy… and I get why, but having now seen this movie, it’s not in the same league at all. I actually just happened upon a review that describes this movie as, “a soulless Toy Story on sugar,” – and that about says it all.
Warning: There be spoilers below…
So, when the movie cuts to live-action (which I saw coming, and I don’t pride myself on that), I was immediately piqued. Then, when I realized that Lord Business was this kid’s dad, I was taken aback… this movie might have just become absolutely amazing! A child dealing with an overbearing dad, someone who expects perfect cleanliness, can’t have fun, is all about business and order – but then, eh. It turned out to sort of be about that, but it was also really muddled and weird. In the animated world, the figures were doing things, but in the real world they were still. So, it’s all in the kid’s imagination, we assume, but then it’s also not because minifig Emmett is thinking and bouncing around on the table in the real world. It’s bizarre in that way, but the message is also slightly strange. The dad has his Lego structures set up, and they’re hardly all instruction-based sets, so it’s not that he’s against creativity… he just prefers order and detail? Is that bad? His son is also coming in and destroying his dad’s hard work.. and is that good? In the animated story, the villain is destroying the weird creations to make room for uniform buildings just as he wants it, so is the reality dad bullying his own son? It wasn’t that the message was wrong, necessarily, but I think it was handled really, really poorly. Either way, the turnaround isn’t believable and that kid is screwed UP :).
Also, the character ideas felt inconsistent. Maybe it’s just me, but my imaginary worlds weren’t self-referential and filled with silly jokes and weird moments (another confusing concept of the imagination/reality conundrum the ending creates [so many C’s!]). There were a couple of tender story moments (though they felt like they came out of nowhere), but I still didn’t really feel anything. Batman makes a glib joke, referring to Emmett as “dad” and in the end credits, his song jokes about his dead parents. Surface-level, just-for-the-joke stuff… and that’s always sad to see. I laughed when Lando appeared and was immediately hitting on Wyldstyle, as that felt genuine to the character, but the other versions of characters were odd characterizations that just weren’t interesting.
That pretty much sums up the whole movie… not interesting (except visually).