The Lego Movie (2014)

Review first published by Film4.

Synopsis: Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) bring the Lego multiverse to comic life in this animated adventure.

Review: Lego’s interlocking bricks have been around since 1949, their very plasticity and modularity ensuring that they have provided foundations for the constructive imaginations not only of today’s boys and girls, but also of their parents and even grandparents. Besides crossing platforms to games and theme parks, Lego has featured in many official and many more unofficial films while, conversely, incorporating many cinematic themes and iconographies in its kits. In the right hands, Lego furnishes the perfect structure on which to build a deliriously postmodern take on our last half century or so: its clichés, commercialisation, and cultural shifts, as well as the creative way in which its prepackaged parts can be recombined and customised into something more personal, eccentric, even subversive.

This is exactly what the creative team behind Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009) has done in the computer-animated adventure The Lego Movie. Its hero, a chirpily conformist construction worker named Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), becomes improbably embroiled in a ‘chosen one’ scenario built of cinematic clichés that writers/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller wittily undermine at every turn, proving themselves the real ‘master builders’ amongst their hilariously incongruous league of superheroes, spacemen, pirates, historical figures and fantasy hybrids. As Emmet must face Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a despotic demagogue with plans to glue everything and everyone in what he insists is their right place, a dialectic emerges between fixity and repurposing, enslavement and invention, instructions and anarchy.

Gags – and pop-cultural references – come thick and fast, even as the very brand of all-devouring corporatisation that makes both Lego and blockbusters thrive is here reflexively satirised. The results are a super-smart joy.

In A Nutshell: Fast and funny, sly and subversive, even as its plot promotes inventive deconstruction, The Lego Movie is built to last.

Anton Bitel