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The Lego Movie by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (dir)
Review by Drew Bittner
Warner Bros.  ISBN/ITEM#: B00I6JOCWY
Date: 10 February 2014 /

Bricksburg. It's a happy place, full of happy people living under the benign rule of President Business. Emmet is a happy cog in the machine, working construction, drinking overpriced coffee and ridiculously joyous that "everything is awesome".

It won't last.

Cast:
Chris Pratt ... Emmet
Elizabeth Banks ... Wyldstyle
Will Ferrell ... President Business/        Lord Business
Morgan Freeman ... Vitruvius
Liam Neeson ... Bad Cop/Good Cop
Will Arnett ... Batman
Alison Brie ... Unikitty

As The Lego Movie begins, the wizard Vitruvius utters a prophecy that one day, a Special will arise. He will find the Piece of Resistance, unite a force of Master Builders and overthrow tyranny "because this rhymes".

Enter Emmet. He's about the most ordinary guy in Bricksburg. He follows the rules, does what he is supposed to do and is happy doing it. He watches the mindless TV show "Where Are My Pants?", loves the same pop tune everyone else loves, does his exercises and diligently ticks off every item on his daily checklist.

In fact, he fits in so well that nobody seems to notice him...until one day, lagging behind his fellow workers, he discovers the iconoclastic Wyldstyle searching the construction site. He trips and falls down a hole, only to discover a mysterious red brick. He ignores the instructions NOT to touch strange pieces and...

...wakes to find himself in custody, being interrogated by Bad Cop, President Business's right hand man. For a guy who loves doing as he's told, this is really bad.

Loaded with astounding cameos, the story careens from the Wild West to a medieval kingdom to Cloud Cuckoo Land, the home of Unikitty. In this place, there are no instructions whatsoever and a special council of Master Builders--including Superman, Michelangelo, Will Shakespeare, and Abraham Lincoln--is held.

Emmet is told that he is the Special--except that there's nothing "special" about him. He isn't a Master Builder; his one original idea was building a double-decker couch so everyone could watch TV together. But the good guys need someone, and Emmet is the one identified by prophecy, so it seems they're stuck with him. With help from Batman, Metalbeard the Pirate (a wonderfully gruff Nick Offerman) and more, it's up to Emmet to find his inner hero, stop Lord Business and build a better tomorrow for everyone.

If you think this movie is just product placement stitched together with quippy dialogue, you'd be wrong. Yes, it does celebrate Lego of every vintage and genre (keep an eye out, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it is comprehensive) but it's vastly more than that. Working with Dan and Kevin Hageman on the story, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street) have created a work that is sly, smart and thoroughly subverts the classic Hero's Journey on which so much fiction is based.

Emmet isn't just an everyman, he's a guy who's so thoroughly self-effacing that even his coworkers barely know he's there. He has no special qualities, not even hidden below the surface, and what he eventually brings to the table is (if anything) thinking "inside the box".

Wyldstyle is a girl who idealizes the words of her mentor Vitruvius to her own detriment, and cannot seem to settle on who she really is. Her self-doubt and uncertainty make her a deep character, contrasting to Emmet's shallow "everything is awesome" pep.

Vitruvius and Lord Business must have been a hoot for Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell, respectively, as both have great lines and are both more and less than they seem. There are lots of great hints in the dialogue as to what they're about and the audience will be kept guessing up to the end.

Batman is also a riot here, with Will Arnett turning in a dazzling parody of the growly superhero. He writes odes to how dark and brooding he is, zooms off at inopportune moments and is about the worst boyfriend in the world. (For what it's worth, I'd happily watch a full-length movie based on this Batman.)

The story turns unexpectedly meta about three-quarters of the way through and that could challenge an audience's faith--but the film makers know exactly what they are doing and deliver a very powerful conclusion with genuine warmth and a positive message. Plus, there's a clever set up for a sequel (supposedly already in development).

If all you're seeking is color-saturated eye candy, this movie will work for you. But if you want a story that plays with expectations and works against the tried-and-true, this is really what you want to see. (And as a bonus, the little ones will be humming the song "Everything is Awesome" out of the theater.)

Highly recommended.

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