Director: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
I was expecting a film based on a children's toy to basically just be a storyline, featuring the toys' characters, played out by animated versions of said toys, like anything that has been produced by the Barbie, Bratz or My Little Pony brands. This is absolutely not the case here. When this film was in development, someone clearly sat down and decided that the aim of the film was to include the essence of what Lego actually is and how exactly children play with it. On the one hand, Lego comes in sets, with instructions for how to assemble these buildings, cars or landscapses. On the other hand, half the fun of Lego is the creation and assembly of your own ideas; amalgamations of various buildings, enormous spaceships, pirates' lairs and fantasy castles. It's the difference between these two activities that Lego decided to centre their film around.
For Lego geeks out there, this film can only be their wet dream. It stays so faithful to the source material, yet has so much innovation and creativity to it that it's a real spectacle to watch. And, most importantly, this film is funny. By tipping their hat to all their inclusive franchises over the years, it has become a homage to all the Lego worlds children will have played with over the last few decades. With everything from Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings to the classic 1980s spacemen, the film acknowledges that no child plays with these figures in isolation, instead creating their own mashups of styles, genres and their wild imaginations. If children want to build a pirate ship that's half wooden, half spaceship, they can... and often do! They are the 'master builders', just like Emmett. It's a very clever narrative device.
Toward the end of the film there is a segment that has been dividing critics and audiences alike. For a good five minutes, the film takes a good step back and breaks all of the rules and conventions it's made for itself and it's a very bold move. Personally, I think the move is inspired and completely inhabits the spirit of Lego, but for some, such an almost Brechtian alienation technique will jar. It's just another symptom, however, that this is a film about Lego, not a film told by Lego - and a damn good one at that.
If all animated films took a leaf out of Lego's book, the genre would be all the better for it. While The Lego Movie won't win any awards or be remembered as one of the Great Animated Films, it is definitely a fun experience. Too many kids' films have become chores for their parents to watch; this is the perfect answer to that. After the earnestness of Oscar Season and while all the crap slips into cinemas that can only be released at this time of year, this is the perfect antidote.