directors Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
viewed: 04/05/2014 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA
At first blush, or maybe first, second, and third viewings of trailers for The Lego Movie, it looked completely uninteresting. The generic “brand” title, the “hero” protagonist a generic “Lego guy” character, the rather limited scope of animation to enliven Lego people characters, and no funny jokes, this movie looked like one to absolutely take a miss on. Felix and Clara were of the same mind, more or less.
But then came the reviews and some word of mouth. It’s not just not bad but really “pretty good!” The buzz has been pretty consistent. Consistent enough to encourage me to take the kids to see if it was indeed one of this year’s better animated features.
Thing is, I am guessing that this is a bit of a matter of how low your expectations may be. I guess, if you were in the first wave going to see the film, expectations were probably pretty darn low. And thus it was surprisingly good. Maybe as good as the reviews would make one think. But then, I guess, expectations for me at least had risen above the bottom rung. I don’t know how high but not zero.
Ironically, the movie is neither terrible nor great. It’s absolutely okay. Okay being slightly above mediocre.
The story is about a Lego drone, Emmet, who lives in a Lego world of utter conformity. He is just like everybody else. Nobody special. Until he runs into a huge rebellion and a vaunted “Piece of Resistance”, which embroils him in a multiverse of Lego worlds and an arch villain who wants to make everyone follow the rules to the letter and maybe freeze everyone permanently with Krazy Glue.
Lego animation is a kind of weird modern thing. I’ve noted how my kids have watched or played Lego video games of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Indiana Jones, which incorporate Lego animated remakes of iconic scenes and sequence. Lego people don’t have a lot of moving parts. They are jointed at the neck, shoulder, wrist, and each leg stiffly at the hip. The facial expressions are in real life limited to one permanent look, but when animated are still fairly simple.
In other words, not compelling design.
The film isn’t just some cheap knock-off thing. There are some really nice animated sequences, adhering to the “if it was stop-motion animated Legos” aesthetic. Ironic itself, isn’t it? If it had been actually done in stop-motion, it might have been mind-blowing. It’s still good but feature computer animation these days generally has its own high bar of aesthetic beauty to reach. The Lego Movie is sort of limited in its aesthetics by its limited movement characters.
The upshot is that the film has its moments. There are some funny bits, some good sequences, and it has a bit of a twist of an ending that gives it a little more than it might have staying within its own digitally-imagined world.
But it’s not a great movie. It’s also not pure corporate marketing trash like the Disney Planes movies look like. It’s a decent film. You really don’t need to go out of your way to see it. It absolutely can wait for TV.