The much anticipated Lego Movie (2014, PG), directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, was the biggest surprise of the year for me so far. I am so used to crappy movies and crude comedies that I was very taken aback when this corporately funded film ended up being not only decent, but really, really good. The comedy was fresh, characters were engaging, and the plot was surprisingly philosophical. Not to mention how amusing it is see this unfold in a world entirely constructed out of Legos.
And I mean entirely. There is nothing in this movie that is not a Lego - well, save at the end, when we get a glimpse of the "real" world outside the Lego City. But barring that, everything, and I mean everything is Legos. The water that comes out of the shower head is Legos. The smoke from the train is Legos. The clouds are Legos. The churning deep sea is Legos. The lasers that come out of the bad guys guns are Legos. You get it.
The plot is deceptively straightforward, but is pregnant with a lot of philosophical undertones. On the surface, it is about a villain, Lord Business, who steals a powerful weapon called the Kragle, which has the potential to destroy the Lego world as we have come to know and love it. The hero is an unlikely construction worker named Emmet, who is chosen in fulfillment of a prophecy that he is "the Special", the one chosen to destroy Lord Business's evil plans. It is similar in this respect to Kung Fu Panda - an unexpected normal character is chosen for an extraordinary task. Against all odds, he rises to the occasion and saves Lego World while discovering himself in the process. So its a nice story about an underdog doing great things.
But on a much deeper level, the Lego Movie is about chance and contingency in the world. To what degree is it acceptable or desirable to impose order on a world that is tremendously multifaceted? Where is the golden mean between too little order and too much order? And what does our Creator will for us to realize our highest end? Yes this question is addressed in the Lego Movie. The Lego World actually presents us with a variation of St. Thomas's famous arguments for God's existence - the fact that Lego constructions exist prove that someone must have built them. "The Man Upstairs", as the film characters call him, leads us to contemplate the order and chaos we experience in our own lives. Even if things may seem disorderly, they are part of a larger plan that it willed by "The Man Upstairs". Rather than trying to impose a corporatist or statist order on our world, one should embrace the creation as something given gratuitously and marvel at the order inherent in the variability of the cosmos.
Yes, this is all in the movie.
I mentioned humor. This movie had me laughing. The jokes were not at all crude, and many of them were very original, the sort you wouldn't come across save in a world made out of Lego's. Normal activities become hilarious. Watching the female protagonist try to hold hands romantically with her boyfriend is hilarious. Watching Emmet simply try to do jumping jacks becomes a comic routine. The reason, of course, is because they are bounded by only what is possible for a Lego figure. This film is not animated Legos doing what would be impossible for "real" Legos; this is Legos doing only those things possible to real Legos. The directors even used a kind of animation that give the movements a jerky, stop-action sort of feel that really enhanced the authenticity. So, knowing that Lego legs can only move front and back and not side to side, it becomes a kind of physical comedy to watch Emmet try to do a jumping jack, the very performance of which is contrary to his Lego nature.
We see all the places we remember from our youth. The medieval world. The pirates. Outer space. The wild west. Even Duplo make a brief appearance. There's a whole slew of cameos and trademark stuff that I am not sure how they pulled off. It was just a great movie. Whoever pulled this one together did and excellent job. I took all my kids to it, ages 11-3. It might have been a little too action packed for the 3 year old, but she still loved it. And as an advertisement for Legos, it worked. There is nothing in this film, not even the most fantastic vistas, that could not hypothetically be constructed of Legos. And as soon as we got home, our kids dumped out the Legos and played with them happily for hours, allowing my wife some nice quiet time to rest.