Who knew a kid’s movie could pack so much double entendre – and no, not subtextual corporate branding. Initially, ‘The Lego Movie’ seems a typical tribute to the underdog: construction-worker-turned-unwitting-superhero Emmett Brickowski (get it?) sets out to foil villain′s attempts at world domination through dumb luck and strategic brainwaves.
But pay closer attention, and you′ll detect writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller′s good-natured digs at pop culture, conformity, capitalism (a cup of Lego coffee costs $37) and even dramatic license itself. The line “Come with me if you want to not die” is a riff on the œTerminator-popularized “Come with me if you want to live”; while Morgan Freeman as Vetruvius, Emmett’s white-bearded mentor with glowing beacons for eyes, is a tongue-in-cheek nod to his role as God in ‘Bruce Almighty’ (2003).
Parodying the superhero archetype, Emmett’s character (voiced by Chris Pratt) is as uninspired and oblivious as a fire hydrant – the kind who needs an instruction manual to dress and shower in the morning (literally). He unquestioningly obeys dictator President Business (Will Ferrell), who has every yellow-faced Bricksburg resident under his thumb – stipulating, through instruction manuals, how to “fit in, be happy and make everybody like you”: “Read the headlines”, “Root for your local sports team” and “Listen to popular music” (cue the maddeningly catchy theme song “Everything Is Awesome”).
Irony is rife
Emmett is earmarked as the “Special One,” the Master Builder who can overthrow Lord Business, according to Vitruvius’ prophecy. He falls down a hole at the construction site where he works and finds the ‘Piece of Resistance’, a non-Lego brick that can purportedly disarm President Business’ lethal weapon, the ‘Kragle’. The feared weapon is said to permanently gum all of Lego Land into a tomb of orderliness, inhibiting the Lego ethos of building without limitations (there are 915 million possible ways to combine six Lego bricks, a mathematics professor at the University of Copenhagen has calculated).
This first whiff of corporate branding is executed so naturally, under the guise of teaching kids to preserve individuality and imagination, that we can quite happily sweep it under the rug.
Emmett is joined – or, more aptly, dragged along – by tough-girl Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), her self-absorbed boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett), Vitruvius and a host of other Master Builders based on film and real-life personalities dead and alive: Shakespeare, Shaquille O′Neal, Abraham Lincoln, Dumbledore and Gandalf (who get momentarily mixed up, to comic effect) and Wonder Woman.
There are car chases, aerial chases, underwater chases and explosions (with plastic flames and bricks for rubble and charming, slightly stilted stop motion animation Ã la ‘Wallace and Gromit’) as they journey through Lego worlds such as Middle Zealand, The Old West, Pirate Cove and Cloud Cuckoo Land, building and rebuilding submarines, spaceships and trains while haring along at 140mph like only Lego characters can do (‘Transformers’ take note: this is how it’s done.) The coolest instance of this is when Batman disarms their pursuer, the two-faced Good Cop/Bad Cop by rebuilding his fighter jet into a baby pram in mid-air.
The film contains so much wonderful, laugh-out-loud nonsense, distinct characters and a coruscation of fantastic worlds that I couldn′t help but wonder when the actor′s voices would turn into a child′s and we would see the giant hand of the young storyteller maneuvering the toys (like in the opening sequence of ‘Toy Story 3′). It turns out the twist is much more gratifying – but you′ll need to see the movie to find out.
Films that equate œgrowing up with loss of imagination and creativity often make a weak case, but with ‘The Lego Movie’ our reaction is: “Good God; have I become a boring, law-abiding drone, too?” In Vetruvius′ words: œA corrupted spirit is no match for the purity of imagination. That sounds like something Winnie the Pooh would say – if he had a better vocabulary.