MOVIE MAN

(Almost) everything is awesome in “Lego Movie”

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Just when making movies based on popular toys appeared to have run its course – the “Transformers” were big but “Battleship” (2012, a 4) tanked – along comes a film about Lego building blocks.

And it’s great fun.

ABOUT THE MOVIE

Sometimes you can just tell a movie is going to be a hit. (“The Lego Movie” raked in over $69 million in its first weekend and earned rave reviews.)

It’s been a while since a movie earned such positive buzz. With today’s social media explosion, movie trailers are now available anywhere, anytime. That wasn’t always the case.

A while back – most of the previous milleneum – it was a big deal to get to the theater on time to see previews. The Movie Man (who, in his early days back in the 1990’s used to review trailers, too) remembers being almost giddy when a coming attraction to an anticipated/rumored movie unspooled.

The 1976 preview for “King Kong” comes to mind; it didn’t deliver as advertised (a full-sized, robotic Kong!) but today it’s a great time capsule movie.

The same year, fantasy/sci-fi fans (like the Movie Man) were in a frenzy awaiting “Logan’s Run” which looked incredible. It remains one of the Movie Man’s favorite movies even though it, too, is as dated as the ’76 Kong.

(You could do far worse than collect movies from 1976: “Taxi Driver,” “Rocky,” “Network,” “Carrie,” “All the President’s Men,” “Marathon Man,” “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Silent Movie,” “The Enforcer” (a Dirty Harry movie); “A Star Is Born,” and a movie that was huge among the Movie Man’s gang, a whodunit comedy “Murder By Death.”)

Anyway, the preview for “The Lego Movie” was a hit on screen and on tablets and phones, etc. Such excitement generation among all age groups equaled success.

It’s still possible to get jazzed in a theater by a coming attraction. Plenty of nerds are waiting for the trailer for the second “Avengers” picture “Age of Ultron” (due May 1, 2015).

And if you’ve seen the preview for “Interstellar” (set for this Nov. 7) and are a sci-fi fan, you are probably salivating at the idea of Christopher Nolan’s next movie after “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012, an 8). It’s a great, old-school coming attraction that spurs interest instead of spelling everything out.

But let’s talk about toys (and it’s Lego not Legos, purists will tell you).

THE PLOT (SPOILER)

Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is an everyday construction worker, creating high-rises directed by Master Builders. He lives his life by the book, with everything following a plan, declaring that “everything is awesome!” a lot.

The block world is ruled by Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who harbors a terrible secret plan: to glue the entire Lego universe together. The Master Builders can’t let that happen; fortunately, as prophetized by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a Chosen One will arise, the one who discovers the “piece resistance.”

That ends up being the inept Emmet, much to the chagrin of Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). She and Emmet end up combining with the Master Builders – among them Batman, Superman, “Metalbeard,” Green Lantern, Shakespeare and “space guy” Benny – to try to thwart Lord Business.

To capture the piece de resistance – the key piece to Lord Business’ world gluing scheme – the ruler has Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson; the guy’s head spins around to reveal good or evil) in pursuit of Emmet, et al.

It looks bad for the good guys until… the movie suddenly becomes live action and everything is explained.

WHAT WORKS

“The Lego Movie” is one of the most kinetic films ever made. That helps with the mentality of the concept – mirroring a kid’s attention span. There are more flash cuts in this movie than in a music video. It’s insanely frenetic. Everything moves so rapidly that it’s impossible to take in all the action on the screen.

Lego fans will love seeing some favorites from the past – like “1980’s space guy” and old NBA All-Stars.

The movie contains a slew of rapid-fire one-liners, many of them funny. Pratt, the ever-happy blockhead, has a quick delivery and he gets a lot of the chuckles, along with Will Arnett as a growly-voiced Batman (and the boyfriend of Wyldfire); he peaks when he encounters characters from Star Wars.

No one comes off better than Neeson and Ferrell who, as bad guys, get the bulk of the humorous exchanges.

The live action scenes are surprisingly effective. The movie’s slightly subversive theme – don’t follow directions – is lovingly delivered.

Get ready to sing “Everything Is Awesome!” for the next eight months. (And hang around through the end credits – which have no stinger [extra scene], by the way – for a funny Batman song and even an “unplugged” version of the maniacal “Everything Is Awesome!”)

BEST SCENE

Superman (Channing Tatum) is weary of a fawning Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) always wanting to be around him. When the majority of the Master Builders get captured and cinched down in open capsules, who’s strapped next to Superman? Green Lantern.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

The incessant busyness of the movie gets a bit disconcerting. There’s so much going on it can get frustrating taking it all in.

The creation of Lego vehicles is so accelerated that there’s no pleasure in seeing them built.

There’s a reason “The Lego Movie” isn’t an 8. It contains many laughs but not enough. That lack of humor is what keeps it below the highest animation bar, “Shrek” (2001, a 9 and Best of Year).

While the cast is star-studded, picking out voices is tough.

The movie remains on the “cute” scale until Batman shows up then picks up. Even then, though, there was so much more possibility with the myriad of characters. The movie feels like it could’ve been, well, awesome!

THE RATING

This got a PG for some reason. It’s incredibly mild.

SUMMING UP

This is one of those movies you can enjoy with kids. It’s very good but not great.

NEXT UP

“Robocop.”

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