The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie is anything you want it to be. It’s a big box full of interesting parts dumped out on the floor and stuck together whimsically to create a fascinating playscape of personal meaning and universal mirth. There are hands behind what you see, talented hands adept at building fun cinematic worlds, but the movie seems as interested in you taking apart and making what you will of their work as it does of communicating any specific ideas. The LEGO Movie is a riot, an anarchic rush of enthusiasm that’s a lot of fun if you’re willing to join in.

The LEGO Movie is also a mess. All the parts are familiar, and they’ve mostly been assembled in the standard ways people assemble stories when they want you to think what you’re seeing is inventive. The general shape of the structure has been clearly borrowed from other sources, and the characters have too. The movie isn’t so much a new creation as it is a reshuffling of tried and true ideas. If ever there was a horse built by committee, it’s The LEGO Movie. It’ll still get you where you want to go, but it’s a bit of a bumpy ride.

The LEGO Movie‘s most engaging aspect is probably it’s animation style. The combination of stop-motion and computer generated techniques creates a visual aesthetic that is only appropriate for a movie about LEGOs. You’ve never seen and never will see anything like The LEGO Movie (until the sequel, of course). This is a herky-jerky world, as if every other frame has been removed from the film. It made me wish it was all stop-motion, since it pretends to be. However, the faces of the characters belie the movie’s inextricable tie to CGI. I wonder what someone like the late Ray Harryhausen or the folks at Aardman Animations or Laika Studio would have done with this LEGO world. Still, The LEGO Movie is a visual delight.

Eventually, The LEGO Movie broaches some broad cosmological and theological concepts. It’s an in-your-face movie, so these ideas are introduced in a very in-your-face way. You won’t miss them. Discussing them in any depth risks ruining the best part of the movie (the last twenty minutes). I will say this though – in method, The LEGO Movie is a bit more like The Truman Show than it is like Toy Story, while in cosmology it bends a bit more toward the later.  The movie’s cosmology isn’t really consistent. (The characters are supposedly actors in a divinely scripted drama, but they also display agency, so…) You can see what you want there, but the very fact that I feel the need to make that critique of something called The LEGO Movie is pretty remarkable.

A round-up of the usual suspects will give you a preview of all the many mental avenues you can meander down while and after watching this movie. For my money, I think the movie is far more interested in being entertaining than it is in being erudite, though I appreciate the nods to profundity. I left the theater feeling like the movie respects me as much as it respects my cash.

I love messy movies. I think more humanity and beauty comes seeping out of the cracks in a work done by a group of people than is often present in its more perfect parts. The LEGO Movie, perhaps due to its obvious and disconcerting commercial tie-ins or its efforts to be all things to all people, is full of cracks. Oozing out of those cracks is much of the best of what people can be, the stuff that can’t be smushed down by powers bent on things other than doing what’s best for others. The fate of the movie’s villain is particularly worth your attention. The LEGO world is one where every piece that wants a place can find one, and even the pieces that seem out of place, in the end, aren’t.

Make what you will of it, The LEGO Movie is something to see.