When I heard a movie about Lego was coming out in February, it was impossible not to scoff. The early months of a calendar year are traditionally packed with garbage. Failed Oscar bait; remakes; Kevin Costner vehicles. A 100-minute commercial about the neato factor of Lego seemed to fit right in. But some very positive buzz was followed by a rash of rave reviews and glowing word-of-mouth. All of a sudden, The Lego Movie seemed less like a lazy cash-in and more
like a genuine stab at all-ages fun under the guise of a product-centric children's movie. Well, folks, I'm proud to say that it's that and more. In fact, I suspect it'll end up being the most entertaining film of the year. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the geniuses who made 21 Jump Street not only watchable but delightful, Lego Movie combines a positive (although corporately motivated) message of creativity with a near-endless amount of witty throwaway lines and character tie-ins. Chris Pratt leads the cast as Emmet, a construction worker in the Lego world who is mistaken for a Neo-esque savior. Elizabeth Banks is the love interest, Will Ferrell is the bad guy (beautifully named President Business) and Morgan Freeman gets to let his hair down for maybe the first time ever as the wise rebellion leader, a mash-up of Morpheus and Obi-Wan Kenobi. They're accompanied by dozens of charming Lego cameos, including Milhouse, Michelangelo (the painter and the Ninja Turtle) and a Superman/Green Lantern pairing with a big/little brother dynamic. And then, of course, there's Batman. Voiced by Gob Bluth himself, he steals every scene (he'd probably prefer them to be called Batscenes). After years of being portrayed as stone-serious in Christopher Nolan movies, it's easy to remember why Adam West was so easily able to inhabit the character: he's ridiculous. Obsessive, brooding, unwilling to love, surrounded by weirdos; that just screams comedy. This version of Batman is less about shark repellent and more about impressing everyone and composing songs about his inner angst ("NO-PARENTS") but his confidence, especially when paired with Emmet's general meekness, goes a long way towards defining both characters. Batman's not a jerk, he just has something to prove. That's exactly how Will Arnett played it on Arrested Development, and it's perfect here. The Lego Movie ultimately wraps up in too neat a package; for a movie that begins with sharp, biting digs at music, television, conformity and the seamy underbelly of consumerism, it ultimately falls into a standard plot with an unremarkable ending that screams "BUY LEGO!" Then again, it is made for kids; even Pixar masterpieces like Wall-E and Up left their unique opening sequences behind for a paint-by-numbers adventure. It's the nature of the beast, especially when your movie's ultimate purpose is to sell toys. But even when Lord and Miller give in to the inevitable, the laughs never stop coming. Lego Movie is living proof that putting together a worthwhile screenplay and letting imaginative people mold a generic idea into their own unique creation pays dividends. You don't just get a successful film; you get a franchise fueled by loads of devoted fans who, rarest of the rare, genuinely want to see a sequel. Simply put, it's blockbuster entertainment done right.