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The LEGO Movie

A wry, playful and intelligent piece of filmmaking that, like Toy Story before it, rises far above its station.
By Tom Glasson
April 07, 2014
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By Tom Glasson
April 07, 2014
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Speaking prior to the screening of his movie in Sydney, director Christopher Miller explained: "Our one, enduring rule for this film was that it had to be story focused. It could never be permitted to descend into a 90 minute toy commercial". For he and co-director Phil Lord, then, The LEGO Movie is mission accomplished.

Set entirely within a world of those clickable bricks and yellow-faced characters, LEGO tells the story of Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), an eternally optimistic construction worker whose pep is matched only by his extraordinary genericism. Emmet is the epitome of commercial dronery: a franchise-coffee-drinking, pop-music-listening nobody who always follows the instructions. That all changes, however, when he stumbles upon the 'Piece of Resistance' and becomes entangled in a power struggle between the ruthless President Business (Will Ferrell), his enforcer 'Bad Cop/Good Cop' (Liam Neeson) and the resistance agent 'WyldStyle' (Elizabeth Banks).

It's...a little hard to describe the sensation of watching this film. Yes, it's computer generated, but what those computers generated were lego pieces. So, if there's an explosion, that explosion is made up of thousands of tiny red, yellow and white lego circles — not CGI fire. The effect is mesmerising. The digital design team (Australia's Animal Logic), wholly adopted the 'rules and grammar' of Lego, meaning characters could only bend at the waist and all vehicles moved as they would if being controlled by a human hand. That device alone lends itself to dozens of jokes, and in terms of laughs, The LEGO Movie delivers in spades.

This is, after all, the team behind both 22 Jump Street and the sublime Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs — two films that wield pop-culture references and drop cameos like nobody's business. Where other movies in this genre can often lapse into brand promotion or smulch, The LEGO Movie retains an acute self-awareness that never permits itself to take anything too seriously. As such, the in-jokes are amongst the strongest and nostalgia is used almost exclusively as a source of comedy rather than to pull on the heart strings.

That's not to say the film is without a point. Its jabs at corporatisation land more heavily than one might expect for a 'kids movie', and its determination to encourage imagination and exploration 'beyond the instructions' is at times so concerted it borders on pro-anarchism.

In the end, this is a family-friendly movie in every sense, yet the truth is, adults will derive more pleasure from the viewing than their children. LEGO is a wry, playful and intelligent piece of filmmaking that, like Toy Story before it, rises far above its station and offers up a truly enjoyable experience.

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