The Lego Movie review

On Saturday, 2 February 2014, Janice and I met Sara F. & Josh C. and Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. at the AMC Burlington 10 for an early matinee of The Lego Movie. We all enjoyed the computer-animated comedic adventure.

Lego Movie
Fun animated film

Plot: The Lego Movie follows Emmet Brickowski, a cheerful but unimaginative construction worker who learns that he is “the Special,” prophesied by the wizard Vitruvius to save their world. After meeting a woman named Wyldstyle, Emmet is thrust into various adventures and must defeat Lord Business. He also learns the truth about creativity, individuality, and the nature of his world.

Script: The overall storyline will be familiar to viewers of other family films, such as Toy Story or Wreck-It Ralph, but I was impressed at the amount of adult humor and satire. The Lego Movie makes sly comments about mass media, consumerism, freedom vs. conformity, and adulthood vs. childhood but still entertains.

Cast: Like many animated features, The Lego Movie has an all-star cast. Chris Pratt is lighthearted as Emmet, and Will Ferrell is the domineering Lord Business. Elizabeth Banks is spunky but vulnerable as Wyldstyle, and Will Arnett is hilarious as her boyfriend Batman.

Other DC Comics superheroes make appearances, including Channing Tatum as Superman, Jonah Hill as a goofy Green Lantern, and Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman. (Two out of the three would do well in live-action versions.)

Other comedians lending their voice talents include Alison Brie as the cutesy but temperamental Uni-Kitty, Nick Offerman as cyborg pirate Metal Beard, and Charlie Day as a 1980s space guy. Morgan Freeman riffs on earlier roles as wise Vitruvius, as does Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop, Lord Business’ dour henchman.

There were several other Lego cameos, including Shaquille O’Neal as himself, Billy Dee Williams as smooth Lando Calrissian, and Anthony Daniels as C-3P0. The numerous crossovers should come as no surprise, since licensed properties have helped the toy maker’s financial success.

Direction: Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who previously worked on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, do a good job of keeping The Lego Movie‘s story progressing within the 100-minute runtime. They also manage to balance Lego’s many licenses with original characters and imagination. While there have been many CG movies lately, relatively few have retained a sense of wonder and cleverness.

Cinematography: As a longtime Lego fan, I was pleased to see several classic themes represented, including medieval, city, the Old West, and space. The kinetic action and multicolored bricks were difficult to discern at first, but the Lego-style settings, characters, and vehicles were all cleverly rendered, as were the opening and closing titles.

Soundtrack: The main theme, “Everything Is Awesome!” is very catchy even as it teases us with its seeming banality, and there are allusions to the live-action Batman movies, as well as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and more.

Rating: I’d give The Lego Movie, which is rated PG for cartoon violence, an 8 to 8.5 out of 10, four out of five stars, or an A-. I recommend it not only to adult fans or those with children who play with Lego, but also to anyone who is young at heart. A sequel is already in the works.

While I had already seen previews for Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Muppets Most Wanted, and Amazing Spider-Man 2, we were intrigued by the first trailer for The Boxtrolls. They all look like fun. We then went to Slowbones, a new barbecue joint, for lunch.

Other movies we caught up on around the holidays included Red 2, Elysium, and Turbo. If you like seeing spoofy reunions of aging action stars, like in The Expendables, you’ll like Red 2. While Elysium wasn’t as insightful social science fiction as District 9 was, it was decent, and Turbo was surprisingly sentimental, despite its similarity to Cars.

We’ve also recently screened 47 Ronin, which wasn’t particularly faithful to Japanese history but still a good “fantasy gamer flick.” It was the sort of film that would be fine for a video night, which my local groups have been discussing. Janice instead went to Disney’s animated Frozen, which she liked.

Here’s a list of recent and upcoming movies (with U.S. release dates):

2014 movies — to see in theaters:

  • Mr. Peabody & Emerson (animated comedy, March 7)
  • Veronica Mars (neo-noir, March 14)
  • Muppets Most Wanted (comedy, March 21)
  • Captain America: the Winter Soldier (superhero sequel, April 4)
  • Amazing Spider-Man 2 (superhero sequel, May 2)
  • Godzilla (kaiju reboot, May 16)
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (superhero sequel, May 23)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (animated fantasy, June 13)
  • The Boxtrolls (animated fantasy, Sept. 24)
  • The Hobbit [Pt. 3 of 3]: There and Back Again (fantasy, Dec. 17)

Maybe eventually on cable or DVD:

  • Hercules: the Legend Begins (sword and sandals, Jan. 10)
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (espionage/action, Jan. 17)
  • The Monuments Men (war/caper, Feb. 7)
  • RoboCop (cyberpunk remake, Feb. 12)
  • Pompeii (sword and sandals, Feb. 21)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (sword and sandals, March 7)
  • Only Lovers Left Alive (vampires, April 11)
  • Transcendence (cyberpunk, April 18)
  • Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (animated fantasy, May 9)
  • Maleficent (fantasy, May 30)
  • Edge of Tomorrow (time travel/SF action, June 6)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (apocalyptic, July 11)
  • Jupiter Ascending (space opera, July 18)
  • Hercules (sword and sandals; with the Rock, July 25)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (space opera superheroes, Aug. 1)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (comic book reboot, Aug. 8)
  • The Expendables 3 (action, Aug. 15)
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (noir action, Aug. 22)
  • Dracula Untold (vampire, Oct. 17)
  • Big Hero 6 (animated superhero, Nov. 7)
  • Interstellar (science fiction, Nov. 7)
  • Paddington (animated fantasy, Dec. 12)
  • Into the Woods (fantasy musical, Dec. 25)

What are you looking forward to?

Escaping reality

Post-apocalyptic Lego at BrickFair 2011
Legopocalypse!

Although I’ve had difficulty posting to this blog regularly lately, being busy with work and travel is nothing in comparison with what some friends have been dealing with lately: David I.S. getting mugged in Rochester, N.Y.; Corbin A.Y. and Ron J.K.‘s ailing family members; and riots in the Middle East and London, as well as economic and political struggles worldwide.

On a lighter note, after considering controversies, cartoons, and live-action promotions around this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, it’s time to look at toys and games. I’m typically more interested in role-playing games (RPGs) and action figures than in video games. Fortunately, there was something for everyone, with some Web sites providing galleries to rival the numerous ones for costumed fans.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that toys based on the animated Justice League Unlimited continue to be made, even if they’re hard to come by. We’ll see how the latest costume variations from DC Comics’ September renumbering look in plastic, but I suspect that the classic superheroes will remain popular.

I was also pleased to learn that Lego has won the rights to characters from both the Marvel and DC universes (it previously sold only Batman sets). As a longtime collector of minifigures and comic books, I think this is a match made in heaven!

On a related note, while visiting my family in Virginia this past weekend, Janice and I went with my brother Peter and our nieces to the fan-run Lego BrickFair in Chantilly, Virginia. We saw many impressive models and dioramas created by fans of the Danish building blocks, including train sets, replicas of world landmarks, towering cranes, and multimedia tie-ins.

Unfortunately, the festival was crowded, so I didn’t get to see college chum Ben P.S. and his son Finley, who were among the exhibitors. I haven’t had time to check out the Lego Universe massively multiplayer online game (MMO), and it would be cool if Lego came out with a Justice League vs. Avengers game!

I’m still digesting the news from Gen Con, but I plan to blog soon about various RPGs, my travels, and food and drink!