Welcome to “The Lego Movie.” In a collective rush to the box office, audiences have fueled a record breaking $200 million in ticket sales during the opening two weeks. Why?
As codirectors and writers, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have had the great good luck to grow up during the glory years of computer-generated animation when anything is possible. What’s possible is that animators can now grab the supremely clever, sublimely nutty contents of those two minds and wrap it all in an avalanche of verbal and visual surprises.
How is it possible, we wonder, that little plastic puppets can seem so human? You might think a tiny yellow round face with button eyes and a line for a mouth can’t show emotion. You’d be wrong.
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary guy who wakes up each morning and consults his book of instructions on how to be happy. After following his boring morning ritual, he steps outside into a world of Lego where everything we see – water, deserts, cacti, trees – are made of those incredible little bricks. It’s further proof that those simple pieces can and do become anything in the hands of someone who imagines them as something other than what they actually are. Score one for the most appealing feature-length commercial of all time.
Ordinary Emmet teams up with Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) to stand up against CEO, President Business (Will Ferrell) who wants to force the world to operate entirely according to his instructions. When everything is in his control, he will glue the pieces of the world together with Drazle so they can live in unchanging, perfect order just as kids once did with their Lego manuals. But, when they started building from their imaginations, everything changed. Enter Lucy and Emmet.
Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) is the enforcer of rote behavior. Lucy assumes the burden of encouraging Emmet to seek the special powers that will allow him to defeat President Business by leading the world from conformity to creativity and spontaneity. Ordinary construction worker Emmet will now combine the bricks of life in any way he wants. No Kragle glue for this master builder. He is, after all, the guy who, even when he was ordinary, designed a double-decker couch so all his friends could watch TV together.
The whole of it is a colorful explosion of the Lego world against a loud soundtrack. The sophistication lies in the adult voices discussing big life issues. Until you see it, you won’t believe that a dark, threatening ocean made of Lego can be made to undulate. It can. No brick is made to bend or twist, but together they become a fluid whole.
There is something quite wonderful about a product so simple that it has become a wildly creative tool of the imagination over the years, and something equally so about a movie that recognizes that and says, “Go for it, no limits here.”
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.