Let’s do some superlatives first. At a time when Hollywood live action comedies are, on the whole, struggling to muster much of a titter, The LEGO Movie shows them how it’s done. With its foot firmly on the accelerator from the very start, it’s a fast, frenetic, quite bonkers piece of cinema, generating more guffaws – not just laughs – than any film we can remember in recent times. Packed to the gills with nerdy references, and with a plethora of surprises you don’t want the internet to spoil for you, it’s a concentrated blast of high energy entertainment. It also proves that when big brand names come together on one project, gold is a very tangible outcome.
The story’s framed through the eyes of a seemingly homogenous, not very special and generally ordinary man by the name of Emmet. Voiced by Chris Pratt, Emmet is a construction worker who plans life literally by the rule book. As the film constantly reminds us, there’s nothing special about Emmet, and there’s no reason at all that he should be a threat to the sinister President Business.
President Business is, in part, the latest iteration of Hollywood’s current villain of choice: the besuited boardroom dweller, presiding over a corporate entity with a public smile on his face, yet a malevolent agenda behind closed doors. The world he oversees has people happily where they’re supposed to be, in their different lands (and there are treats in store for those who know their LEGO sets, right down to the individual code numbers), watching the same TV programme over and over again, and dancing to the same song.
We’d best address the song actually: Everything Is Awesome will live in your head, ears and lives for long after the film is finished. Doubly so if you have children.
The catalyst for change comes in the shape of the prophecy, with Morgan Freeman voicing a character who’s spent equal title reading the Bible and watching the Matrix trilogy. So we learn about Master Builders, the broader world, and get a boatload of cracking gags as we do so.
But then, incredibly, The LEGO Movie finds yet another gear, as we delve into a world where Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and more (we’re deliberately holding back, as some of the character introductions are pretty much guaranteed to bring the house down) work side by side. Batman gets the most focus, and Will Arnett is clearly having a ball voicing him. Yet there are so many joyful surprises as the film progresses, not least a daring and quite brilliant ending, that it’s hard to believe a LEGO movie – with so many corporate entities involved – could work so well, and be so thoroughly mad.
Step forward then the real heroes of the piece: Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. If there are better directors of accessible, funny mainstream comedies currently working in Hollywood, then we’ve no idea who they are. Building on their work with Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, they’ve written and directed The LEGO Movie, and it’s some achievement. They employ the same effective, borderline brutal editing style they demonstrated in 21 Jump Street at times, but also find comedy in lots of different ways.
Furthermore, some of the visuals are such exquisite. One moment where you see the ocean in particular shows the imagination on offer here, and they’ve managed to marry up what makes LEGO so popular with the visuals required for a film extremely well.
Faults? Well, perhaps the pace falters occasionally, and because large parts of the film are so funny, you’re more conscious of the bits that aren’t. If you’ve got your pickiest pants on too, the core plot’s not that radical. But then if you take said pants off, the ending explains pretty much everything. Moral of the story: leave picky clothes at the door.
And be warned: we’re ending the review with more superlatives. The LEGO Movie is a treat. It’s the nerdiest comedy we’ve seen in years, the funniest comedy we’ve seen in years, and one of the most brilliantly bizarre explosions of lots of disparate ingredients we’ve seen in… well, years. If cinema at its core is supposed to be an entertainment media, then the rest of 2014 is going to have to go some to come up with more fun than this. A real triumph.
Oh, and one last nerdy tip: stay around for the last song that plays over the end credits. It’s worth it…
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