Two months ago, in my review of “Frozen,” I bemoaned the lack of imagination and cutting-edge animation in recent movies. I am surprised as anyone to find that the cleverest, funniest, animated movie in years has arrived with the most unlikely title of “The Lego Movie.” It sounds like a feature-length commercial for those building blocks we all used to enjoy playing with as kids. But it’s much more than that. “The Lego Movie” is a clever satire of modern culture, while at the same time an old-fashioned appeal for teamwork, imagination, and belief in oneself. The movie reminds us that what we learned in kindergarten is still relevant in the adult world.
The basic story of “The Lego Movie” is deceptively simple: Emmett, a contented construction worker, is chosen by a group of superheroes (including everyone from Batman to Wonder Woman to Shaquille O’Neal to Abraham Lincoln) to lead the people against the tyranny of Lord Business along with his henchmen, Bad Cop and the Micromanagers. As in “The Matrix,” Emmett cannot understand why he is chosen by a bearded, monkish figure named Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) to be “The One.” He has neither special powers, nor evident leadership skills. Still the Superheroes believe in Emmett until he begins to believe in himself. Even Emmet’s invention of a double-decker couch finds a use.
“The Lego Movie” is fast paced, with never a dull moment, and visually complex (I recommend seeing it in 3-D.) Like a Lego model, it is constantly changing, morphing into something new. Anything can be built. The mild PG-rated zingers come so fast that I missed many of them. One of my favorite ongoing jokes included the most popular TV shows of the day, called “Where Are My Pants?” Every episode is about a man who wakes up in the morning and can’t find his pants. It’s a huge hit; everyone thinks this search for pants is outrageously funny. In the best tradition of animation, back to “Road Runner” and “Bugs Bunny,” there’s something for everyone, regardless of age. How often do you see that in a movie these days?
In the final live action scenes of “The Lego Movie,” we realize what it has done so well: transport the viewer into the mind of an imaginative child. Elements of pop culture, history, and imagination come together as a team to defeat a tyrant who wants everyone to conform. All elements of the movie are neatly tied together in surprising ways by the end of the movie. We even learn what that odd thing Emmet has on his back is.
So many contemporary big-budget movies focus on superheroes with super-human powers saving the day for us mere mortals. “The Lego Movie’s” Emmet reminds us that ordinary men and woman have what they need to live good lives and overcome evil. All they need is a community of faith, a little imagination, and good common sense. Even Batman and Superman are impressed.
Like me, you might be a little embarrassed to tell your friends that you’re going to see a movie targeted to 10-year-olds. However, word-of-mouth from adults who took their kids and were won over is already spreading. “The Lego Movie” is pretty cool, no matter how old you are.
Tom Condon, OP