That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

The Lego Movie (feat. David, Isaac, Jonathan and Sean Walberg)

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 11:17 am—Film

The Lego Movie (USA 2014, Animation/Action/Comedy), Writer/Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

A few years ago, back when I had only two nephews, I was on a quest for real Lego—those loose pieces that come in all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes, the kind you could build into whatever you wanted, the kind that didn’t come with a set of instructions and a specific purpose in mind. I wanted to give my first nephews, Jon and Isaac, the kind of Lego I grew up playing with. But all I could find in my local toy stores were Lego kits, designed more for crafting predetermined ships or boats or planes than to stimulate the imagination. It wasn’t until I stopped in at Toys “R” Us in Times Square that I was able to find a box of the prized pieces.

Today, I’ve got three nephews playing with that New York City Lego (young David joined the gang about six years ago). I’m proud to say that all of them prefer making their own Lego creations to sticking with the instructions. They love the kits, too—they’re a new generation, after all—but once they’ve finished following directions, they take the finished product apart and start inventing their own versions.

As much as my nephews and I love Lego, we weren’t on board right away with the idea of a Lego movie. When Isaac and I discovered the movie’s poster during his recent visit to Ottawa (the boys live in another province), we were left wondering what on earth the plot would be about for such an obvious marketing piece.

Isaac enters the world of Lego.

Isaac enters the world of Lego

Jon had the same doubts, although they were quickly turned around once he saw the movie last weekend. “When I started watching it, I was thinking, ‘How can a movie about Lego have a plot?’” he says. “And then after, I realized it was pretty cool how they took Lego and made it into a huge movie.”

It’s a huge movie, indeed. The Lego Movie comes from the genius writer/director team behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Here, they’ve created a brilliant, self-reflexive animated flick that, in the words of fellow Lego junkie Thomas J Bradley, “perfectly captures the ideas of Lego.”

So what is the plot? I won’t reveal the overarching premise, but the main story follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), a regular Joe Lego man presumed to be the “Special” destined to save the world from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who rules over all things Lego and insists that everyone always follow the instructions. Emmet joins forces with a fantastic group of rebel figurines, including Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Spaceman Benny (Charlie Day) and the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). Standing in the way, alongside Lord Business, is Liam Neeson’s conflicted Bad Cop.

The Lego Movie holds together with shrewd observations about the real world and very clever plays on sayings, words and product names. It turns ideas on their heads and offers hilarious insights into the way children interpret their surroundings—all without alienating the parents in the audience.

Sean, my brother-in-law, dutifully took the boys to the movie, but he was pleasantly surprised by how much he himself enjoyed it. “There were a lot of adults laughing their heads off in the movie,” he says. “It was well done.” Sean also commented on the “nostalgia factor” the movie tapped into. For example, Spaceman’s faded logo, or his broken chin strap. “That was what would always break first on those things.”

There’s no question that The Lego Movie is an unabashed marketing campaign. The filmmakers deliver a fabulous one-two punch, targetting grown-up kids who were raised on Lego, just as much as the kids who play with it today. But they’ve also built a smart, inventive flick that shows what’s at stake when imagination is squelched for the sake of compliance, and concludes perfectly by driving home the idea that one person’s happy ending isn’t necessarily the same as everyone else’s.

More to the point, The Lego Movie is piles of fun. It’s hilarious and visually awesome, and it makes it very clear that playing with Lego (or at least being creative, taking risks and believing in yourself) forms the building blocks of a happy childhood and an accepting, inspired adulthood.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise by rattling off too many examples of what’s so funny and clever about the movie. So I’ll keep it to just a few of the best bits, according to my nephews and me.

David: “Everything is AWESOME!!! I liked the Lego lava at the beginning. It’s so cool when it boils, Lego hot stuff goes flying up in the air. They used a lot of Lego pieces for that. Except it’s not so realistic Lego. I love how that spaceship guy was screaming ‘SPACESHIP!’ the whole entire time he was flying; it was so funny. How does that work, Lego people talking? I guess people were dressing up as Lego blocks.”

David, as a tiger, going rogue with free-form Lego.

David as a tiger, going rogue with free-form Lego

Isaac: “I liked the rocket ship guy. And the Millennium Falcon. I thought it was funny. The ending was really funny. I don’t know what my favourite part is; I just like building Lego. I just finished building a Lego castle, it’s like six little rooms, each side of it has a roof and then a base on top. It has walls and a sniper tower. And I added more to the Lego ISS.”

Isaac working on one of his many Lego inventions.

Isaac working on one of his many Lego inventions

Jonathan: “I really liked the part where the bad cop keeps changing into a good cop. I liked the plays on terms. And the ending was pretty funny. I read a lot about it in Isaac’s Lego magazine so I kind of knew what was coming. It was really good.”

Jon with one of the "secret" animal villages we built. No Lego involved, but each of the figurines would fit into a Lego world.

Jon with one of the “secret” animal villages we built; no Lego involved, but each of the figurines would slot into a Lego world

Me: “I loved Batman’s song, Untitled Self Portrait: [To the barking beat of the Batmobile’s subwoofers] DARKNESS. NO PARENTS. SUPER RICH. KINDA MAKES IT BETTER.”

*            *            *

Thank you to Rebecca and Sean for casting aside the instructions and putting together the best nephews an aunt could ask for. They’re colourful, animated and totally awesome.

2 Responses

  1. Catherine Jensen

    Amanda, this is so wonderful on so many levels; engaging other generations in reviewing movies, nurturing that analytical sense and honouring it in all ages, and transcending time and distance to make something really collective and magical here.

    Congratulations to all five critics, David, Isaac, Jonathan, Sean and Amanda, and thank you so much!!!

    Lego Forever!

  2. amanda

    Thanks, Catherine. So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

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