The LEGO Movie (2014)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 2/15/14
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Shaquille O'Neal

Much like the movie's theme song, everything about "The Lego Movie" is awesome. Curiously, it looks like LEGO has given up on its all-caps brand name, as the title of the film uses regular casing. Probably for aesthetics more than anything, but it's something that true LEGO nerds will definitely notice. The story centers around a lowly construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt) who is the most boring, generic, and non-descript character in the world. He's a blank slate and a complete nobody. Chance brings him together with a bunch of radical, free-thinking, master builders who are waging a revolutionary war against President Business (Will Ferrell). Business plans to destroy the universe by enforcing order, and has a deadly super weapon at his disposal which he plans to use on Taco Tuesday. Will Emmet's conformist ways and complete lack of imagination and creativity be able to save the day and win the heart of the rebellious Wyldstyle? (Elizabeth Banks)

Unlike the other LEGO movies, this one opts for a stop-motion approach rather than a shiny, fluid aesthetic. What's interesting is that the look of the film falls right into the Uncanny Valley (for lack of a better term), and my analytical mind was wrestling with it the entire time. It almost looks like genuine stop-motion and there are numerous camera flaws that support that theory, but the action and camera work are way too smooth and complex for the medium, so it must be all CGI. Or is it? Regardless, the textures and lighting are superb and lend an incredible amount of authenticity to the characters and environments. It took about ten minutes for me to get used to the look and feel, but once Wyldstyle was introduced and the action picked up, I was hooked. The film only falls apart at the very end, when the magic disappears and the illusion is destroyed. It's an unfortunate climax and leaves a bad taste.

Admittedly, the story is rather weak and not very interesting. The film works best when it's being silly and imaginative, while reveling in its own beauty and splendor. It relies heavily on nostalgia and does an excellent job of poking fun at pop culture, as well as itself. Countless cameos and pop culture references pop up throughout the film, including Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders), Han Solo, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels), Gandalf, Dumbledore, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Shaquille O'Neal. The Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill dynamic is evidence of some amusingly shrewd casting, as is Cobie Smulders, who was Joss Whedon's initial choice for a Wonder Woman feature film. Stylistically, the film is an utter joy, and unlike the other LEGO films and video games, great care is taken to ensure that EVERYTHING appears to be made of LEGO bricks and panels. It's a celebration of the freedom and imagination of youth, while also praising the merits of detail, discipline, and structure. With LEGO you can do ANYTHING, and that's ultimately what the movie is all about.