Directors: Chris Miller, Phil Lord
Cast: Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson
MPAA Rating: PG
Length: 100 Minutes

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Sugar Rush

For those of you that don’t know, there’s a series of Lego themed video games based off famous franchises. Whether it’s Marvel Super Heroes, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or Batman, Lego has “brick-ified” almost every hot property you can think of. The games typically take you through the events of a few films, allowing you to build, smash, and jump your way through blockbuster cinema’s most memorable moments. The stories remain fundamentally the same, but an emphasis is added on sprucing up the events of darker moments with Lego themed humor.

For instance when Isildur destroys Sauron and claims the ring in the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring, we’re treated to a heartbreaking moment of betrayal, as Isildur forsakes his vow to destroy the power of Mordor and dishonors the memory of his father who died only moments earlier so that Man and Elven kind could finally have an opportunity to drive darkness from Middle Earth. In the Lego game version, we get a similar scene (albeit somewhat condensed), but instead of having Sauron’s helm fall empty to the ground, it falls on a scared Orc, and adds a little levity to an otherwise dark moment. Now, these concepts have been applied to a mostly original feature film.

Emmett (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary construction worker who is so ordinary that even all the other ordinary Lego people around him have trouble noticing him. He couldn’t care less though, as his days are filled with following the building instructions to the “T”, watching his favorite television show, “Where Are My Pants?!”, and singing a sickeningly catchy Tegan and Sara/ The Lonely Island song called “Everything is Awesome”. One day, after work, he encounters a strange and beautiful Lego lady rummaging around in his construction area. He attempts to find out who she is, but winds up bumbling his way into a secret underground chamber and discovering the “Piece of Resistance”.

Soon after his discovery, he becomes the target of a manhunt led by the evil President Business (Will Ferrell), who seeks to destroy the Piece so he can use his secret ultimate weapon, The KRA-GL-E, and end the world as the Lego people know it. He’s rescued by the mysterious woman, who calls herself Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and introduced to an ancient mystic, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who explains that because he found the Piece he has become the “Special”, and fulfilled a prophecy of the master builder known as the Special finding the Piece and overthrowing evil forever. Now Emmett, with the aid of Wyldstyle, Vitruvius, Batman (Will Arnett), and a host of other Lego characters, must destroy the KRA-GL-E and bring peace to all the realms of Lego.

The story, sadly, lacks a lot of originality aside from a few twists towards the end that make it stand out from the standard “You are the Chosen One” scenario. The basic structure of the story plays out similarly to a video game, with each area the group journeys to as an equivalent to a level, and each fight with President Business’ minions as the boss battle. For the most part it simply serves as the shaky rope bridge that holds together a massive amount of pop culture references and jokes. When I say massive, I mean it.

If The Wolf of Wall Street is the number two film of all time for the amount of times the word “fuck” is used (being second only to a documentary on the history and usage of the word itself), then The Lego Movie has to have set a record for pop culture references. There’s even one, roughly two minute scene where there is nothing but references. Everything from the main heroes of The Justice League, to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Harry Potter, to famous historical figures like William Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Abraham Lincoln, and even to spin offs from the main Lego line of toys (like Bionicle) are introduced in rapid succession. It’s like the Imaginationland Trilogy from South Park, but with less introductions for important parodied characters and more simple name dropping. Sure, a small portion of the characters introduced have roles in the story, but most serve only to elicit an “oh cool!” from the nerdy parents in the audience. This rampant referencing, while fun for a moment, quickly wears thin.

Similarly, the films humor often derives from what I like to call “awkward humor”. usually this consists of someone doing or saying something stupid and having everyone else in the scene responding with various “umm…”‘s. Think of those long awkward pauses that characterize 50% of Family Guy’s humor. Emmett, especially, falls prey to this annoying form of comedy. For a comedy film, I really only laughed a few times, and even then it was because the references were so out there or a particular line of dialogue (that nobody else in the theater thought anything of) happened to strike me. If I were sixteen years or more younger, I’d probably find this movie to be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen (which on an unrelated note is actually Blazing Saddles or Cartman fighting a midget to Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness”).

On a more positive note, the way the film uses the brick shaped toys could not look cooler. Things like water, smoke, and fire have a certain creative genius behind them that emphasizes not only how they would react in reality, but maintains the Lego look and feel. More than once I was blown away by how the artists cleverly turned standard geometric shapes into a living, breathing world. The films vibrant color scheme is another plus, as characters like Wyldstyle and President Business jump off the screen and make sweet, sweet love to your eyeballs. Sometimes though, this can be a problem. Especially during action scenes where lasers and police lights are flashing across the frame, you might find your eyes growing rapidly strained. Perhaps I’m just growing old, but I’ve been out of the theater for about two hours and my eyes still ache (sitting in front of this bloody computer monitor isn’t helping).

The Lego Movie is pretty standard when it comes to a family comedy. Fun jokes just for the parents, bright colors and characters mixed with great effects for the kids, this film really should have been a win-win. A few key things wind up stabbing the Achilles’ Heel though and bog this film down. I’m sure your kids will love it, as the hyper colorful and just plain hyper events on screen will be like candy for their brains. However, just like real candy, this film is certainly sweet in some ways, but it ultimately has no nutritional value.

 Score: 6.5