Should an animated kids movie really be this fun?
In this film inspired by the little stacking blocks, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the writer/directors behind the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films and, oddly enough, the big screen 21 Jump Street films) deliver an epic, hilarious, exciting, eye-popping flick that takes LEGOs and animation to a spectacularly different level. But does it have enough to actually speak to the world we live in today?
There is no doubt that there is something for everyone in The Lego Movie. Honestly, the trailer didn’t do much for me but my son loves LEGOs, animated movies, and it was a snow day from school. We were going one way or another! But the truth is that I may have liked the film even more than he did, as the jokes, while not inappropriate, seemed more aimed at children of the ’80s which caters more to the parents who are taking their kids to the theater. The animation is stimulating, even dazzling, and the pop cultural referentials are right on. I’m not sure I caught them all, but they were certainly engaging, and the crowd laughed over and over again.
The film follows the construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) as he stumbles into the worldwide struggle between the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and the forces of good, the Master Builders, led by the Gandalf-like wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Superman (Channing Tatum), Uni-Kitty (Allison Brie), Batman (Will Arnett), the 1980s space guy (Charlie Day), and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman). Obviously, this is a star-studded cast for a bunch of voices lent to LEGO characters, right? But the thing is, that Lord and Miller are significantly changing the comedy game, both animated and real-world, to the point that everyone wants some action.
At this point, if you haven’t seen the film, stop reading and go see it! Spoilers below otherwise.
The thing is, that the film goes from an entertaining lark with a focus on how obeying the rules can stifle creativity to a “wow, what just happened” moment when it switches from animated LEGO world to live-action reality. Seriously? What just happened? Is it for real.. Oh my goodness…
The fact that Ferrell is the dad/Lord Business makes it a double-whammy. Not only are we being asked to consider what society does to the creative and those who can see the best and brightest in the world, but it’s this kid’s father who is doing it to him. Instead of cultivating the best, the most expressive, and the most powerful of his child’s imagination, Ferrell’s father figure demands that the rules be followed and that change not occur. He’s so focused on being it perfect that he can’t enjoy the moment, that he can’t appreciate what new and special could happen, that he can’t recognize that LEGOs aren’t meant to be Krazy Glued.
When Ferrell says “they aren’t toys because I’m using them,” I can see the connection between how our literal, law-abiding lives can get in the way of us actually having a life. When he says that, I can see how I’ve struggled with my six-year-old’s questions about “trying it that way” rather than the way it says it should work (with pictures!) and I’m not just talking with LEGOs. When he says that, I see the way that we (and by we, I mean ‘The Church’) has gotten hung up on the do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments and regulations of the church, instead of embracing the life of joy that God intended. It’s like reading the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” and not realizing that Jesus is asking each and every one of us to reconsider who our neighbor is.
The LEGO Movie wants us to consider joy, and to embrace creativity, and hope, and dare I say, forgiveness and love. Which makes it maybe one of the most Gospel-infused movies I’ve seen lately. Even if that’s not the set of rules they meant for me to storm my way through, taking apart brick by brick, and putting back together, this time, with heart.