Thursday, February 27, 2014

The LEGO Movie

    Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller must be psychic, because this movie was almost perfect for me, and has quickly become my most recommended flick. It has incredible depth; not only does it combine combine rich and unique comedy with surprisingly thrilling (and not to mention equally unique) action sequences, it also appeals just as much to me as the 8 year old kids who flocked in to see their dream movie. On top of all that, the stunning animating and wonderful voice acting (along with some very exciting cameos) left me with a giddy smile for the whole 100 minutes, which stayed on my face well after I pulled back into my driveway.

   As an aspiring animator myself, the thing that stuck out most to me during the film was the animation. Lord and Miller also worked on the stunning Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, which had animation closer to the norm. But what makes The Lego Movie's animation so unique is the illusion of stop-motion technique. Throughout the film, I was sitting in my chair not knowing whether to devote my attention to the art or the laughs. It is seriously impressive that they were able to make their computer animations look like production-level real LEGO stop motion movies. (There are some very impressive home made videos out there). They imitated this style by only using sequences that would work under the laws of LEGO. i.e. feet had to be placed in the holes on the floor, hands couldn't hold anything that didn't have a holding bar, etc. This really drew sympathy from me and all of those who struggled with the limitations of live LEGOs. In addition, the attention to detail was very impressive: they even went so far as to use some real lego sets and to make some of the characters hold imperfections so as to look used. To note the detail and incredible artwork, you don't even have to look further than the trailer. Please, please take a second and just focus on each small movement. Then watch it again for the hilarious writing.

   Lord and Miller went with a fairly safe storyline in making this movie: a seemingly normal guy who turns out to be "the one", featuring the plot driving (and cleverly named) piece de resistance—the only weapon to stop the Kraggle. I think, however, that this relatively overdone plot is acceptable in this situation. The movie is, advertised at least, for kids, so the story would be easily lost in the minds of the youngsters anyways. That also leaves more room to appreciate the animation and comedic talent featured in the film. Adding to the story were some great LEGO (not acting) cameos that not everyone can truly appreciate.
DC United
There is a very satisfying appearance made by some quality Justice League characters (Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Superman, and Flash), with Batman playing a more permanent role. A lesser known Ninjago shows up in the forum, a new addition to the LEGO family. The 2002 NBA All Stars! What could be better? Oh, I don't know, maybe a nerdgasm-inducing fly-by featuring the Millennium Falcon and crew? I think it's safe to say there was plenty to keep you occupied during viewing.

   Did you notice all of the voices behind the pasted on faces of the LEGOs? My guess is you didn't, because there were 14 people that I would consider "stars". Can I name them all for you? I'm going to anyways (in order of their role's importance): Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrel, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Jonah Hill, Will Forte, Keegan Michael Key (sans Peele), and finally, oh yeah, Shaq. Shaq's digital presence has been almost as massive as his suits lately. Will Ferrel, a king of comedy, in a movie with some of my favorite tv stars in Day, Pratt, Key, and Brie. Every new character put me further and further in awe. The fact that big names such as Hill and Forte only have one line goes to show how impressive this cast is. And paired with the animators, they nailed every punch line. Every new scene sent the audience roaring with laughter, while subtle jokes kept a constant giggle. This isn't much of a surprise, seeing how Lord and Miller were also responsible for the 21 Jump Street reboot, a film with endless re-watching potential. Plus, the depth of the film was overwhelming.
Starbucks, anyone?
One one hand, there were a multitude of jokes clearly not meant for the little kids: references to pricy coffee, an old quote from Abe Lincoln, the 2002 NBA all star team, a sly homage to Terminator ("come with me if you want to not die"), an Austin Powers reference baby, a perfectly timed Bionicles touch, and not to mention one that sent me off my seat: Batman's "he's the hero you deserve", which is a hilarious nod to the brilliant scene in Batman: The Dark Knight. On the other hand, there were subtle nuances and themes of existential crises, as well as multi layered conversations that some weren't in the mood to analyze.

   However, I can't finish this post without asking the one burning question i had walking out of the theater: why the live action sequence? Look, I get what you were trying to do. Transcend the fantasy world to show that the themes in the movie can apply to real life. Maybe just to have real world resolve between childish father and son, to show that the magic of the movie can apply to real life. But to be perfectly honest, it really didn't translate well into live action. First of all, I'm a massive fan of Will Ferrel, but I don't want to see him getting all sentimental. Secondly, it turned what was an incredibly well thought out and fantastical movie that allowed us to suspend our disbelief, to a movie about the imaginings of an everyday kid. Somehow, it just made it so much less special and personal.

    That being said, The LEGO Movie is one that was expertly crafted on all fronts, and although it was basically a massive ad for LEGO, it was one that can bring a surplus of laughs upon multiple re-viewings.



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