Over the years the increasing product placement in Hollywood cinema has become downright in-your-face to the point Hasbro have been happy to churn out three-going-on-four Transformer films and another based on Battleships to act as big screen adverts for its products. When the news broke of a movie based on Lego building blocks, you’ll forgive me for fearing the worst. At least with Hasbro’s efforts there was fan demand for a Transformers film – Lego seemed to be a bizarre choice for a full length feature, arguably even more so than Battleships, adapted from the board game and as middle-of-the-road as a sci-fi action blockbuster can get. Yet for all my pessimism, The Lego Movie is something of a marvel that may be daft and frantic, but its also hugely entertaining with a wicked sense of humour and captures the joy Lego has brought to millions of people throughout the world without acting like an overblown commercial.
The storyline is a riff on numerous other major releases in which a saviour is needed to free an oppressed land, however the story is played for laughs here rather than a weighty or emotional drag. The Lego Movie centres on a simple Lego construction worker figure called Emmet (Chris Pratt) who is happy living his life by his instructions until he has contact with a mysterious block and is mistakenly considered to be the MasterBuilder prophesied to free the Lego world from the tyrannical control of President Business (Will Ferrell). While Emmet had only been aware of one way of communal life dictated by President Business, including one show on television and seemingly one song in existence, contact with the block opens his eyes to lands previously blocked off to his city all themed by their Lego products. Under the guidance of ninja Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Emmet is faced with proving his worth as the MasterBuilder able to save the Lego citizens from their dictator.
Hugely entertaining with a wicked sense of humour.
The Lego Movie is hyperactive, cheeky and downright bizarre at times, but all the better for it. This is smartly written to ensure neither children nor adults get bored, and the older generation can marvel at the neat references to Lego past including President Business’ company Octon and a 1980s space figure while reflecting on the choice Lego owners had between playing with their specific kits or mashing all the pieces together for their own creations. The story is self-referential and doesn’t take itself too seriously – the moment Batman turns up in his Lego Batwing as Wyldstyle’s boyfriend and we start seeing a series of Lego figure cameos (Star Wars’ C3PO, Chewbacca and Han Solo in a Millennium Falcon a highlight) you know the movie is going for laughs over trying to shore-horn in any character depth beyond what is necessary to keep scenes zipping along and provide some action set pieces full of exploding Lego models.
A twist at the end threatens to derail the good will generated throughout The Lego Movie with quirks such as a good cop/bad cop voiced by Liam Neeson who changes personality by spinning his head round, but there is still plenty of charm in the finale. Of course you might walk out the cinema thinking you’d like to pick up some Lego to play with (for isn’t that the ultimate aim of a film like this?), so be prepared to be sold to or nagged depending on your child situation. Thankfully there is a sweet innocence to The Lego Movie that can be forgiven; such originality will be hard to replicate in the already-announced sequel for 2017 though.