Legos aren’t just toys; for those kids (and adults) who build them, they’re tiny rectangles of color, irreverence and imagination. And it feels so fitting that as “The Lego Movie” presents them, they become a miniature metaphor for life itself. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s wonderfully outrageous story captures the joy and possibility contained within every brick.
“The Lego Movie” at times plays like the culmination of the entire Millennial generation’s media moments. The dialogue zips along with the speed once reserved for the Marx Brothers and Old Hollywood Screwball but is now a facet of the kids who have grown up with “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development.” The ironic absurdity to the entire story plays directly to a modern sensibility. And entire set pieces and spastic, GIF ready images feel like every Internet meme rolled into one (a character called Princess Uni-Kitty seems bound to become one).
It’s a brilliantly wild and even surreal experience that reaches for activity and laughs wherever it can find them. Some may find “The Lego Movie” unrelenting if not exhausting, but the exhilarating quickness is exactly why it feels so daring and inventive.
Even the story tests limits by treating every detail with a knowing wink. “The Lego Movie” follows the adventures of Emmet (Chris Pratt), an every day guy who smiles, likes what everyone else likes and is happy to just be a part of it all. When he meets Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), he’s told he is “The Special” with a prophecy that proclaims him to be “the most awesome, interesting person ever,” destined to save the world and find what makes him so unique.
Lord and Miller (“21 Jump Street“) recognize even the kids have heard that one in some shape or form before (“The Matrix,” for one), so it plays directly on those instruction manual tropes. The villain is named President Business (Will Ferrell), the theme song to the world is proudly called “Everything is AWESOME!!!” and it minces no words over story details that don’t add to the beautiful world they’re creating.
Beyond that, pop culture obscurity designed to go over the kids’ heads and land only with the parents don’t exist here. Lord and Miller have made a dynamic, bonkers comedy first and rely on the fact that kids will appreciate its broad strokes while the older crowd can admire the speed, absurdity and wittiness. For proof, look no further than the Batman song, with the lyrics, “DARKNESS. NO PARENTS. BLACK WINDOW SHADES.”
Although this is a movie that could be for everyone, it’s built with the Lego loving crowd in mind. Familiar Lego instruction manuals direct the film’s hero to brush his teeth and perform jumping jacks while blink and you’ll miss it visual gags and Easter Eggs like a poster for “A Popular Band” litter the scenery awaiting the Internet obsessive to find it all. In one sequence, the film flashes between many of Lego’s available sets and brands for purchase, providing a tasteful, hilarious and even plot driving way of doing the necessary toy-tie in.
The fun of playing with Legos however boils down to the act of seeing the world you can create, and “The Lego Movie” is a visually stunning example. The camera is completely liberated and mobile and the colors and details in every frame are endless, utilizing the best of modern CGI while staying true to the characteristic look and shape of Legos dating back to forever. One shot is a miraculously bleak image filled of destruction and chaos after a climactic battle. It looks worthy enough to belong in “Avatar,” but Lord and Miller smash cut to a pitiful looking cloud constructed of Legos, achieving the two-fold effect of an absurd visual gag while reminding us that beyond it all is a little kid dreaming this all up.
There’s beauty in that realization, and “The Lego Movie” really hits its stride in a fourth wall breaking final act that attains an emotional resonance on par with “Toy Story” and the best of Pixar. But “The Lego Movie” is entirely its own creation, constructed from the universal building blocks that define our cultural experience.