MANILA, Philippines – It’s been over 60 years since the first Lego brick was built in the late 1940s. While few would argue against the success of the Denmark-based toy brand, there is an understandable amount of concern in bringing the classic building block to the big screen.
Toy films are hardly a benchmark of quality. Outside some key exceptions, the toy-film genre is flush with straight-to-video cash-ins that fade as quickly as the toy trends they are made to promote. But The Lego Movie succeeds in breaking the toy-film curse with a tremendous amount of wit and a surprising amount of heart.
Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary Lego minifigure who has built his life around an instruction manual. As one of the countless construction workers employed by President Business (Will Ferrel), Emmet is happily oblivious to his boss’ plan to control the world. But when the obedient Emmet runs into the rebellious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), he becomes the unlikely hero tasked with saving the world that has taken him for granted.
The Lego Movie manages to make clever use of the brand it so proudly parades on screen. But while other licensed properties simply rely on novelty, The Lego Movie provides something much more potent – in this case, insight.
The initial charm of The Lego Movie is seeing everything in action. Whether it’s in the building blocks or minifigures; there is an unmistakable magic in witnessing Lego’s plastic world come to life. While it can be overwhelming at times, the animation comes out of something vaguely familiar – our imagination. The Lego Movie succeeds in translating the imagined world of Lego into something tangible, physical but no less magical.
The Lego Movie intentionally lacks the polish of other big budget animated features, but that’s only to capture the crude, sharp-edged aesthetic of a Lego-built universe. But animation aside, the film’s real triumph is in highlighting the spirit of Lego itself.
As an animated feature, children and their respective families are the film’s primary market. But co-directors and screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller aren’t oblivious to the fact that Lego’s legacy speaks to a much older demographic: the grown-up collectors who no longer see Legos as toys, but as collectibles.
The Lego Movie runs the risk of spreading itself too thin by talking to too many people, but the end result is remarkably cohesive. This is because the film realizes talks to today’s children and also to the child in every grown-up.
Instructions not included
In a world where every rule is followed and every step is noted down, The Lego Movie manages to remind us that some of the best creations can’t be made using an instruction manual. The spirit of Lego is in building unexpected designs, from a vague roadmap in our imagination. But while the film does fall a few notches short of knocking its theme out of the park, it does provide something genuinely insightful about how Lego, despite its value as a collectible, is still a toy designed for play.
Not many toys have as storied a history as Lego, and don’t command the same kind of emotional connection as the candy-colored blocks from Denmark. And though the plastic spectacle can be nauseating at times, there is something cleverly sincere about The Lego Movie. The film works not because we are particularly endeared to the toys onscreen, but because we project our own experiences in playing with them.
It’s particularly apt that the name Lego is an abbreviation of the Danish words “leg godt”, which means “play well,” because that’s what The Lego Movie succeeds at emulating. It’s a one and a half hour play time in an ocean of building blocks. It’s one crazy idea piled after another in what ultimately turns out to be a film full of fun. And though that toy can’t be built out of any instruction manual, Lego reminds us that you can probably build something better even without one.
Watch the trailer here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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