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Everything is Not Quite Awesome: Review of ‘The Lego Movie’

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The_Lego_Movie_posterMy anticipation was high to finally see The Lego Movie. Love for it was all over Facebook friends’ feeds. It had even earned the #1 spot in the Top 5 Films of 2014 (So Far) from Filmspotting co-host Josh Larsen. I’d watched the released clips from the movie with our toddler and had been wowed by the visuals. I’d even heard it was one of the best Batmans on film to date.

I know I should have seen it in the theater. Instead, we watched it while at the rental lake house on vacation. The TV was cheap and old, with a curved screen, maybe 32 inches. We also tried to showing it to our toddler. But at just over 2 years old, he doesn’t have much experience with Legos, just Duplo blocks, and he’s not yet encountered many of the characters that The Lego Movie so readily riffs with: Batman and the rest of the Justice League, Gandalf, Abraham Lincoln, etc. The one time he perked up was when Michael pointed out Chewbacca in the brief Star Wars appearance. He was bored, and we even decided to finish the film without him after he went to bed.

All this adds up to less than ideal viewing for The Lego Movie. We still have it, rented from Netflix, with the intention of watching it again on our better home theater system, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to get sent back un-re-watched after this weekend. I think both of us would prefer to watch new-to-us episodes of Once Upon a Time instead.

That’s a long caveat to temper my ultimately lukewarm reception of The Lego Movie. Spoilers ahead, since everyone else in the world has seen it.

I was absolutely and completely charmed with the first 15 minutes or so which satires our over-mediated, consumerist, sheeple-producing society with laughs and insight. Heck, just the name President Business connotes the completely screwed up relationship between capitalism and government our country endures. The heavy rotation of “Everything is Awesome” spoke to the controlled mediation of “message”. I was wide-grinning through the entire opening.

But then the movie got into a more conventional hero’s journey, worth of the unique individual thing, and while it remained good, it stopped being fantastic for me. It’s not that I don’t value that idea, it’s just that particular theme is present in approximately 60% of all children’s movies. The other 40% gets the power of working together theme. Of course, they sometimes cross over, as seen in The Lego Movie.

Unikitty_filmstill1It was still funny. Lots of funny. But as it wore on, the various parodies felt like pastiche rather than satire. I certainly enjoyed the many references and appearances of, like, Shakespeare and Green Lantern, but they stopped having any purpose other than to be familiar and make a joke. The characters that were a touch more creative were also the most fun: Alison Brie’s Princess Unikitty and Nick Offerman’s Metal Beard.

The ending climax, where a live action world reveasl that the Lego worlds are all displays in the basement of Will Farrell’s house, is a mixed bag. In the Lego-verse, we have explosions and people “freezing” and apocalyptic stakes. In the “real world”, we have a son who wants to be able to play with his dad’s Legos. That’s a bit of a drop in stakes, amirite? The real world is less engaging all around. It’s loads less visually stimulating. But then there are these two characters that we’re meant to care about even though we just met them. Yes, they stand in for universals: the people who follow the Lego set directions (and even glue them together–gasp!), and those who would creatively intermix the sets. And at this point, thud, I stopped caring. The characters of the Lego-verse were just toys (I don’t care if Emmet did move on the table), and the people of the real world were nobodies.

Oh, The Lego Movie, why couldn’t you have maintained the brilliance of your opening?

Perhaps this can all be redeemed in the upcoming sequel.


Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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