Much Ado About Lego

By on February 23, 2014
Lego Movie

When exactly did Legos become such a thing?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I had Legos when I was a child, and I enjoyed playing with them as much as the next kid. And I definitely remember there being special sets tying in to things like “Star Wars” and various superheroes and the like, so I get how all of that started as well. But for the better part of the month of February, “The Lego Movie” has all but owned the box office, and I’m not entirely sure why, beyond there not being a whole lot of viable alternatives, particularly in regards to families right about now.

Somewhere along the way, Legos became big business, spawning videogames, direct-to-DVD movies, and even theme parks. And they’re not just popular with kids, either. Teens love them, and even adults. Just take a perusal of YouTube and search under Lego and check out all the various inventive stuff people have took it upon themselves to build from the plastic blocks.

As a horror fan, I was oddly delighted to see small-scale replicas of things like the Amityville Horror house and Disney’s Haunted Mansion, recreated in meticulous, borderline obsessive detail. And those stop-motion animated films people have posted, many of them spoofing various pop culture touchstones, are a lot of fun.

So, when did Legos go from being the things found scattered throughout the houses of parents all over the world, lurking where you least expect it, waiting to nab the feet of unsuspecting adults unlucky enough to be walking around barefoot and not minding their steps, to a multi-billion dollar franchise that’s currently packing them in at the box office? Hard to say, but one thing is clear: they’re not just for the kiddies anymore.

What with the near-rapturous critical acclaim for the movie from critics all over the States- the film has a 96% favorable aggregate rating on “Rotten Tomatoes,” which is pretty much unheard of- my curiosity finally got the better of me, and I finally decided to check it out and see what all the fuss was about for myself.

Playing it safe with a matinee, I was a little shocked how packed it was, even on an early Friday afternoon, just after school let out. There weren’t that many kids under the circumstances, but there were plenty of adults in attendance, and not just people my age, either. We’re talking older, middle-aged men, and even a few older women to boot. What the what was going on here? Don’t these people have better things to see?

Okay, in all fairness, the only other things opening that weekend were “Three Days to Kill” and “Pompeii,” so if you weren’t into action movies, you were a bit limited in your choices, to be sure, but still, a near-packed audience of grown adults attending the freaking “Lego Movie”? And several weeks after its initial release? This had better be good, I thought to myself.

And lo, and behold: it was. Go figure. From the clever writing to the catchy Tegan & Sara (with The Lonely Island) song that runs throughout the film, “Everything is Awesome”-a hugely successful hit single download on iTunes, by the way, clocking in at number 11 on the dance music charts- the film is a bona fide winner from top to bottom. There’s also a musical score by Devo main man Mark Mothersbaugh, a personal favorite of mine right up there with Danny Elfman, IMHO. And perhaps needless to say, the movie itself plays like the ultimate stop-motion fan video, down to its (mild spoiler) clever meta-conceit of having the whole thing be kind of presented as just that.

Courtesy of imdb.com

Courtesy of imdb.com

And the voice casting is just…perfect. From lead actor Chris Pratt’s golly-gee-whiz clueless average Joe delivery to Alison Brie’s insanely perky- and sometimes just insane- Unikitty, “The Lego Movie” gets it right. I mean, hell, it would have been worth my hard-earned bucks just to witness a surprisingly game Morgan Freeman get Gandalf confused with Dumbledore- or should I say “Doubledore”? Or the admittedly nostalgia-charged moment in which some of the original “Star Wars” cast makes an appearance- and yes, it’s mostly actually them. (Harrison Ford took a pass, perhaps unsurprisingly.)

There’s also the sound of Liam Neeson channeling his inner doofus, as the “Good Cop” half of his dual-policeman persona. And the fact that Batman is portrayed as a bit of a self-serving blowhard (voiced by Will Arnett) and Green Lantern is portrayed as a bit of a loser, voiced to perfection as such by Jonah Hill. And don’t even get me started on the hilariously over-the-top work by Charlie Day, of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”-fame, who was born to do voice-over work, as the much-beleaguered Spaceman, always at the ready to deliver his signature mode of transportation, the spaceship. Great stuff, all.

In fact, the film is packed to the gills with pop culture references that will delight adults, and an underlying message that’s somewhat nicked from “Toy Story,” but is still pretty effective in regards to making a valid point: building Lego sets is one thing, but being so serious about toys to the expense of not letting your kids play with them is a bit much.

It’s no wonder the real villain of the film isn’t the character voiced by Will Farrell, Lord Business, but Crazy Glue! (As in people who glue down their creations so that they can’t be dismantled.) These toys weren’t made to be contained, they were meant to run wild, going wherever their owners care to take them, no matter how mental.

So, there you go. Color me a convert. “The Lego Movie” not only earns an A+ from this critic, it earns back the respect lost after the last toy-turned-movie debacle, the “Transformers” series- and trust me, that’s saying something, because those movies…ugh. I just can’t. But I can totally do “The Lego Movie 2,” especially if it’s half as much fun as this one.

But I might have to draw the line at “The Diplo Movie.” I’m just saying.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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