In The Lego Movie, Every(one) Is Indeed AwesomePosted: February 12, 2014
There’s a song you may have heard from The Lego Movie called “Everything is Awesome!” And while that song is, within the context of the movie, meant to represent vapid, nonsensical, manufactured music, it is also an infectiously cheerful and catchy bit of work. So in that regard, it is a perfect summation of The Lego Movie as a whole, both in what it represents and just as a simple capsule review. Why break down the layers of terrifically-constructed (and very meta) entertainment and how they all come together in the service of a great thematic lesson when I can just cheerfully scream “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!” at you? But since just posting the song is a lame way to review a movie (and would rob me of the opportunity to ramble in a very how-smart-am-I? way), I’ll go into more spoiler-laden depth after the jump.
Overall, The Lego Movie is an incredibly fun, whacky adventure that does so many things well. Perhaps the biggest and most consistent element is that the film perfectly captures the insanity of playtime, particularly the sort that tended to involve the titular building blocks. As someone who did indeed play with Legos in my youth (along with Star Wars, GI Joe and many others), I appreciated the manic energy and random-yet-enjoyable mashups. When the Millennium Falcon randomly shows up in the middle of the movie, it’s not just a geeky shout-out or a cynical milking of a property; it’s exactly the sort of no-context-necessary crossover that every seven-year-old includes in their fun. Much like Pacific Rim last year captured the sort of goofy blockbuster entertainment I appreciated as a kid, The Lego Movie captures the sort of crazy, nonsensical play sessions I’d have afterwards, putting all my excitement into crafting my own crazy stories starring all my favorite characters.
But Phil Lord, Chris Miller and company aren’t done there. Within this zany kids-at-play story there is some great deconstruction of blockbuster tropes, particularly the whole Chosen One archetype that seems to be everywhere the last 15-20 years. One of the driving forces of the story is that our “hero”, Emmett (Chris Pratt), doesn’t seem to be much of a hero at all. He’s not the brilliant Master Builder that the other good guys have been expecting, and his ideas are not all that great. A great deal of humor is built on this fact, but then the finale twists things about: rather than just relying on Emmett suddenly becoming the hero he’s expected to be (which admittedly does still happen), the whole world is encouraged to fight the forces of Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and find their inner Master Builder. It’s an excitingly open-ended twist, that essentially sees dozens, hundreds of everyday people fulfill this prophecy in their own ways. Oh, and Lego Batman (Will Arnett) is a brilliant deconstruction of the Nolan/Bale Batman too (which I do still like, but they really hit the nail on the cowl with this).The other great revelation of the third act is the sudden transition into live-action territory, showing that the whole story has (at least in part) been the product of the imagination of a young boy who just wants to play with the toys that his father (also Will Ferrell) is sadly hoarding as super-serious models rather than the fun, open-ended toys that they are. At this point, the finale takes on yet another layer, not just being the culmination of Emmett finding his abilities but also of this young boy finally breaking through to his father, a man so unsure of himself that the only way he can feel comfortable creating things is by working off a manual. For a plot development that only arrives in the climax, it’s surprisingly effective and emotional.
So, here we have a movie with all of those elements at once. And yet the movie never feels cluttered, or messy, because all of these potentially disparate factors are tied together by one large, overriding thematic message: BELIEVE IN YOUR OWN CREATIVITY. It all comes together in the climax. Emmett isn’t the only “Special” in the world because everyone is capable of being creative as well, and they can all contribute to the battle to save the world in their own way as long as they hold nothing back and commit to their ideas. And the whole crux of the emotional arc between the Father and the Son is that the Father has never felt creative and as a result thinks the only way things can be “perfect” is if he makes them exactly according to instructions and then never changes them, but his son’s unbridled imagination then changes his mind. And as the great Abed Nadir once taught us, when you have true belief in yourself , it’s not too hard to compromise to work with others or even sometimes follow the instructions (as the Master Builders have to learn to do as part of their endgame plan). It’s a great message to send to kids… and to Hollywood as well, serving as a reminder that creativity is an essential component to life (and Business!), one that we can’t just push aside in favor of the easy, preplanned solution.
And the universe couldn’t have sent such a message along at a better time for me either. Over this past weekend, I finished a first draft of a short screenplay, my first “completed” project in a very long time. And while this would normally be the point that I begin to doubt my ideas and wonder if the concept will really hold water, The Lego Movie went a long way towards encouraging me to keep at it and commit to it no matter what. In that regard, it’s right up there with Ratatouille, which is about the highest possible praise I could offer. Or, to phrase it differently:
(I’m sorry, it’s just that fun of a song)