Sunday, February 23, 2014

Everything Is Awesome! (The Lego Movie review)

As you might expect (at least, if you've been following along for any length of time), The Lego Movie has been a big deal in this house for... well, a while. I don't, now, remember when my kids first heard about it, but there's been growing excitement about it much in the way of the excitement around Star Wars back in the 90s when Lucas announced that he was going to make the prequels. It's an odd thing, though, since our house has been full of Lego movies for more than a decade, back when the first Bionicle movie came out. Of course, those old Bionicle movies aren't quite the same as the ones that came after the Lego Star Wars video game, which, in many ways, inspired this whole trend in Lego movies. Which is not to say that that is what inspired "brickfilms," because the first known brickfilm was made in the 70s, but it was after Lego Star Wars that the concept really took off. Needless to say, we own a vast assortment of Lego movies and shorts.
Honestly, The Lego Movie didn't quite live up to the standard that Lego has established with their direct to video productions.

Yes, this will be full of spoilers.

First, let me just say, the movie is good. It's a lot of fun and a lot of funny. For pure enjoyment, The Lego Movie did its job. I laughed a lot and so did my kids. The song, "Everything Is Awesome," is ongoing in my house, now. The actors did a great job with the voices, especially Will Arnett as Batman and Charlie Day as Benny. The animations was great and is full of more details than you can actually while sitting in the theater. Since this is a movie that we will almost certainly buy, I'm looking forward to being able to pause it in order to look for all of the things I missed and read the numerous background signs that whiz past in all of the action.

The issue I have with the movie is the story. Or its lack to effectively establish one story.

Most of the movie revolves around the story of Emmet Brickowoski, a generic Lego minifigure. He is so generic, in fact, as to be unrememberable. He is devastated to learn that when he went missing no one really noticed that he was gone. He wasn't special in any way. He had nothing that set him apart in any way. Nothing that made people say, "Oh, yeah, that guy!" Which is why he found the idea of being "the special" so appealing. Once he realized that he wasn't, that is.

The problem was that Emmet only knew how to follow the rules and didn't know how to do anything without his instruction book. Because he has become the subject of the prophecy, they need to teach him how to be "the special," which really doesn't go well. He has no imagination and is unable to come up with anything beyond his "bunk couch" idea. Eventually, though, he does begin show some capacity to lead and, just as he is beginning to get into his role as "the special," his mentor is killed and reveals that there never really was a prophecy: He just made it up. Before dying, though, he tells Emmet that all he needs to do to be special is to decide to be special. Basically, he can do it if he just believes in himself.

That's fine as the message of a movie. I mean, it's a pretty common message for movies. "All you need to do to succeed is to believe in yourself." You can't be special if you don't think you are. Personal feelings about that message aside, Emmet doesn't fall for it. He's devastated to learn that there is no "special" and that he's not it. He does make the move, though, to save his friends, specifically Wyldstyle, and sacrifices himself to the void to free them.

And ends up in the real world. Our world. Where the movie and the message change and, really, completely undermine the original message.

Once we get out into the real world we find that the actual conflict is between a boy and his father. The father believes in doing everything by the instructions, and the boy wants to build his own things. The father's Lego sets are off limits to his son, which is the issue, as we come to find out. While his father was at work, the boy has "wrecked" his father's stuff by rebuilding the rather miraculous sets into the story we've been watching. The conflict is about the rigidity of the father and whether the boy should be allowed to play with his father's toys.

Very little of the movie dealt with what was actually the ultimate story and conflict (and the one that my children resonated with, by the way), but it is the point of the movie. And I will leave the outcome of that unspoiled.

However, in dealing with that conflict, the father dismisses Emmet as "just a construction worker." A nobody. Which reveals to us why the character is so not special. However, the son responds, "No, Dad, he's the hero." Which reveals to us that Emmet actually cannot be special just because he decides to, just because he believes in himself. He is special because he was chosen to be special by the son. And that is the issue I have with the movie. It sets up this whole story about being special and believing in yourself and how that's all you really need but, then, says, "Never mind. You have to be chosen." Of course, they don't come out and say that, but, still, it's there.

So, from a story-telling perspective, the movie has some structural flaws. Despite that, though, as I said, it's very enjoyable, and, really, most people won't notice what I'm talking about anyway or feel any conflict from it. And, well, there's a great Lego Star Wars cameo. Being a Warner Bros. movie, the Marvel franchise was, unfortunately, left out. The movie was calling for some definite Hulk action.


  1. I've heard from many adult friends that they enjoyed the Lego Movie and I should see it. Also, as someone who's never seen the direct to DVD movies or played the video games, I guess I have no real expectations. I kind of expect to just shut my brain off and "enjoy the ride." I can see how the "you are the chosen one" thing could irk you, but as I'm going into this thing with a mental lobotomy, I expect to just laugh and mindlessly enjoy. Which, for a movie like this, is okay by me.

  2. Maybe the son should've said he's the hero because he believes in him?
    Agree with Brandon and Bryan. Still haven't seen it, but if I do, just going in for the enjoyment.

  3. I had no idea Charlie Day was in the Lego Movie. At least his voice. Not sure I'll see this one until it comes out on DVD or Netflix.

  4. My daughter and I went to see it last weekend and enjoyed it tremendously. I felt as you did - I'd like to watch again with a pause button so I can catch all of the stuff I missed.

  5. Not likely to see it I don't think.

  6. As I was waiting for the comment window to open I was thinking how this is almost a religious allegory: God chose someone special, etc. Then I realized that it's a conflict between God the Father and God The Son, both of whom have the power to alter the world and the Father is rigid and all... Old Testament-y, while the son is much more loving and kind.

    I then thought "I doubt that was the intention" but you never know, do you? Maybe that was the intention, or maybe it was just accidental. Or maybe it's hard to talk about God, or gods, without people reading their own backgrounds and/or beliefs into it.

    What's MORE interesting to me is why the story resonated with your kids: Are you the stern father who insists there is a right way to do things? Is there an Emmett waiting to get out of your house? We need to know these things. Sure, you come across all likeable and happy and stuff, but maybe behind the scenes you are secretly a despot?

    (I doubt it, but you never know.)

    Anyway, here's a big issue, too: We stopped at McDonald's one night on the nightly ride, to get Mr F his french fries and Mr Bunches his "Coke Soda," and I saw that they had Lego Movie (TM) Happy Meals (TM) and the sign showed a little Emmett figure, so I told Sweetie "I'm going to just get the Happy Meal (TM), you can have the cheeseburger," and we did that.

    And the Happy Meal (TM) had A STUPID CUP WITH EMMETT ON IT.

    No Lego (Whatever, you get the point) action figure, no toy WHATSOEVER.

    A. CUP.

    I've never felt so betrayed by McDonald's before. What kid wants JUST A CUP? How did Lego not figure that putting those little Lego guys in would be a way way better toy for kids?

    We use the cup to wash paintbrushes out now. I hate it and will never buy another Happy Meal again. What a stupid toy.

    (PS Mr Bunches saw the Lego movie and loved it and sings "Everything Is Awesome" periodically.)

  7. Sounds confusing. I might watch it on DVD at some point.

  8. ABftS: Oh, you need to see The Empire Strikes Out and, um, I think the name of it's The Padawan Menace. I don't remember for sure. But in reverse order of how I just listed them.

    Alex: That wouldn't change the fact that it was the son choosing him.

    Elsie: There's probably not a big reason to unless you like Lego.

    TAS: Yeah, I've had to do that with a lot of their direct to dvd shows, especially the Star Wars ones. I'm looking forward to it.

    Jo: I didn't think you were likely to.

    Briane: I did actually think about that while I was watching the movie, especially since they call the dad "the creator" and there's this big deal about how Emmet once saw his hand (or something). But I didn't want to go into possible religious allegories since I'm not confident they were intended. It's all very Lego, too, and may be nothing more than that.

    As for my kids, it was mostly my (younger) son that commented on the theme of the movie. He said he really liked that message, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I spend a lot of time provoking them to creativity. He's actually the one that doesn't want anyone else to touch his stuff. heh
    My biggest problem, according to my daughter, especially, is that I work too much.
    My wife agrees.
    I'm working on it.

    Since we don't eat fast food anymore, I haven't bought a kid's meal in years. The last time, though, was specifically to get some toy that my son wanted (I think from McD's) that he ended up being disappointed with.

    Pat: It's less confusing than it is just jarring. Like reading something to have the character wake up and you find out it was all a dream.

  9. Meh, I'll skip this one. Which should be easy since I don't have kids.

  10. Well, I didn't really want to read the review part because of the spoilers, and I know I will be watching this with my niece and nephew...I can't wait to see it!!!

  11. Couldn't read the whole post because I didn't want any spoilers, but it's too bad it doesn't "live up" to the expectation you had for it. Hopefully it was still enjoyable. :)

  12. I thought it was amusing, though there were times I was a bit bored or the jokes were groan-worthy. Plenty of actual laughter, though. My kids loved it, and I was excited to find the unikitty available, alone and in several kits. My daughter will be over the moon. Unikitty was the very epitome of all she loves (unicorns, cats, and pink--okay, that's an oversimplification.) We'll definitely end up buying it, and I will be forced to watch it over and over, at which point I likely won't find it funny anymore. :p Cuz' that's how my kids roll. There was a previous Lego-type movie we saw, but I can't remember the name. The kids were hooked on it forever. It was an adventure with a Lego guy who resembles Indiana Jones in my head. It was a big hit, so I'm thinking I should look into the other direct to video ones for them.

  13. I haven't seen it. Despite hearing that it's pretty good, I'm not sure when I'll see it, if ever. But then again, we're always having kids over to the house, so I may give it a go before I know it.

  14. Jeanne: What do you when there's an animated movie you want to see?

    RG: No problem about skipping. You can come back after you've seen it.

    Alex H: Oh, yeah, it was really enjoyable. I didn't have any special expectations for it other than that I expected it to be like their other movies. I just forgot to take into account that this one was done by a studio, not Lego.

    Shannon: My daughter wants a unikitty, but the Lego Movie stuff is completely wiped out around here. Maybe for her birthday.
    There's a pretty good Batman one, by the way.

    Rusty: I will be surprised if you don't end up seeing it.

  15. We are so looking forward to seeing this that I'm going to skip the review for now. Often, I go back and read a lot of reviews AFTER I've seen the movie. I WILL BE BAAACK.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

  16. Tina: I'll expect to see you then, then.