(2014 - Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell)
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did this right. They created a movie about LEGOs where every single object seen is built from LEGO blocks. That means water, smoke, explosions, and gunfire. The details are so crisp and the movements are so realistic that it actually looks like you’re playing with real LEGOs. It’s every kid’s dream.
Lord and Miller also brought along their brand of humor, as seen in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. It could be said The LEGO Movie was made for the twitter generation. There are jokes and running gags about every second. The film is jam packed with toy references, self-aware plot devices, and clever filmmaking techniques that make this an extremely entertaining movie.
On its surface, the story is about a normal guy, Emmet, who is destined for greatness. We’ve seen that message of “everyone is special” a million times. But The LEGO Movie takes a surprisingly unexpected and mature route. Instead of the story being about the normal guy finding something extraordinary about himself, it’s about how “normal” IS extraordinary. It swims through identity issues. Emmet wants to believe he’s special. He wants to be cool and unique like all of the master builders. It’s that heroic/individualistic message that teenagers in our society tell themselves. Everyone is chasing different “identities” (Wildstyle) in order to achieve some far-fetched dream all while missing the connection they have with society as a whole. And then we have the exact opposite message with Emmet. He lives by the instruction manual and wants to appease everyone and ends up having no personality at all. People forget him minutes after talking to him. Emmet’s identity lies in “fitting in” with the society around him.
We see the constant battle between extreme individualism and extreme collectivism. The audience knows that Emmet is psycho for believing all the trash Lord Business feeds him, but we still want him to be “the special”. We hear Morgan Freeman’s character, Vitruvius, repeatedly tell Emmet to follow his instincts and to find what makes him special. When Emmet uses his own original ideas they seem stupid and crazy to the master builders, but end up saving their lives every time they get in trouble. This is exemplified when all the master builders join to build a mega-hybrid-submarine comprised of all their personalities. The submarine ends up being destroyed: All except Emmet’s ridiculed double-decker couch. Emmet learns to be honest with himself. He won’t ever be a master builder, but he doesn’t have to to make a difference. When everyone around him is fighting to be special, just being normal ends up being the most special of all. It’s at that point in the film that Wildstyle reveals her normal name, Lucy, after being inspired to let go of her fake persona.
Lord Business, who wants that collectivistic society, is combatting individualism. He wants to take it to the extreme by having everyone “glued” in place just the way he wants it. Of course, we soon find out that this story is actually happening in real life between a father (Will Ferrell) and son. Their touching story takes the identity theme and slam-dunks it home for the audience. It all comes down to a father accepting that his son wants to play with his toys and have a personality of his own. The father is so blinded by demanding his son leave his toys in perfect condition that he hasn’t seen his son’s originality and love of these toys. As a stand alone scene, we probably wouldn’t identify with this because it’s far too specific and we probably don’t know any living human with that many LEGOs, but because of the message of the story before it, it works perfectly.
The climax of the movie shows how things work best when people are working as a community, but embrace their own identities no matter how boring they may be. If we love ourselves and use our ideas to better the society around us, then we can all be special.
The LEGO Movie is a thematic wonder. It’s original, hilarious, visually masterful, and surprisingly human. It’s a great film that demands multiple viewings.