I’m going on record, right here, right now: “The Lego Movie” is the best Blu-ray set I have reviewed in 2014. This packaging from Warner Bros. has more or less everything a viewer could want, and what’s more, the film itself is great from top to bottom. Okay, sure, 2014 is only about halfway over as of this writing, but it’ll probably take something on the level of “The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition” or better to snag such acclaim away from “The Lego Movie.”
This said, don’t expect “The Lego Movie” to win any major awards. It isn’t on the level something like “Citizen Kane” might be, for example, but simultaneously, that doesn’t mean it lacks all the elements good films need to work their magic. It appeals to a wide audience, keeps it wholesome and funny throughout, and perhaps best of all, takes you through many varied emotional spaces during its 100 minute run time. Kids will enjoy it for its silly moments and because they get to see such a well-enjoyed childhood toy personified in a new way. Adults will latch onto some references to other films they recognize and can’t help but smile as they think back to their earlier years playing with Legos during adolescence.
With a worldwide box office take of over $462 million, “The Lego Movie” is the most commercially successful animated film ever produced and distributed by Warner Bros. to date. Its positive critical reception and impressive financial return on investment have already prompted the studio to set a release date in 2017 for a sequel to hit theaters. While my fingers are crossed, I’ve never been good at putting the cart before the horse, because doing so indirectly discounts what you have right in front of you. And what “The Lego Movie” has presented is nothing but great stuff.
A short opening scene presents wizard Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) doing all he can to protect a powerful super weapon from the ill intentioned Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Following a short conflict, Business steals the super weapon, referred to by the characters as the Kragle, but not before Vitruvius states a special savior will someday find the one Piece of Resistance that can stop the Kragle forever.
The film speeds forward eight and a half years, and we meet everyday construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) as he readies for another day on the job in Bricksburg. After work, he spots a woman dressed in black digging through his construction site, but slips and falls into a hole where he indirectly discovers the Piece of Resistance. After he comes to, Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) demands to know how he got his hands on it, but the strange woman from earlier, named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), whisks him away to safety in the Old West.
As their relationship develops, we learn more about the Lego worlds. Emmet discovers that Business wants to lock everything in place so different worlds cannot interact. Wyldstyle introduces Emmet to Vitruvius, and we learn he and other Master Builders have been hunted because they can create anything in their Lego worlds without instructions. Other colorful characters populate the story from this point forward, including Batman (Will Arnett), Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), Benny (Charlie Day), Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) and more. The cat and mouse game that ensues pits good versus evil and results in some pretty dynamic emotional interactions between characters you might not predict. There are also a few notable cameos, plus a twist away from the animated world I didn’t see coming in any regard.
There is ever so much low hanging fruit here, and it all comes together in a way that blends action, adventure and emotion together with what seems to be the greatest of ease. The characters are surprisingly deep, and in a way you could argue that “The Lego Movie” is a sort of coming of age experience for Emmet as he transcends his life from run of the mill to extraordinary. We see real world objects brought into the Lego world and react with humor, especially so given how polarizing the film’s characters are toward these items (things like an X-Acto knife and 9-volt battery, for example, symbolize weaponry and power in a way that can rattle and unnerve a Lego character).
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller also wrote the screenplay, and they did a superb job with making it relatable for both younger audiences and their parents/adults. They take liberties on quite a few famous movie lines that you’ll likely recognize if you’re a film buff (Wyldstyle stares at Emmet as they are first escaping from Bad Cop and says, “Come with me if you want to not die”), and they do it in a manner that fits into the film’s overall pacing and storyline quite well. The timing and placement of situational humor versus spoken word versus intense emotional moments has been methodically attended to, and it helps to strengthen the film’s foundation by adding credibility to what some might otherwise dismiss as a kids only film.
Maybe the best thing of all regarding “The Lego Movie” is that you don’t have to know a whole lot about Legos to enjoy it. Sure, you’ve heard of Legos (unless you’ve been buried under a rock for the past sixty years and have never played with one of the company’s nearly 600 billion parts produced) and probably tinkered with them in one way, shape or form, but while the worlds the characters move and operate in during “The Lego Movie” are very heavily structured with Lego parts (and they look so darn clear and real), you’re not barraged with references to other Lego specific stuff that is so focused you can’t pick up on it unless you’ve been exposed to it. While “The Lord of the Rings” films are great examples of how knowing the back story and having read the books in advance will truly enhance your film going experience, “The Lego Movie” demonstrates that if you are a novice, you can still enjoy the experience, and perhaps even more so because it is so fresh, new and inviting.
Easily the most fun film I’ve watched at home in quite some time, “The Lego Movie” brings a lot to the table. This depth and breadth is crucial to bringing in a diverse audience who can appreciate the film on the many levels the filmmakers desired. Rarely are movies capable of being marketed to such a wide cross section, and even more rarely are they successful to the point of hundreds of millions of dollars. “The Lego Movie” did this, and so much more, and it did so while setting a new standard along way.
A “computer animated adventure,” you know you’re in for something visually appealing given what our modern technology is able to do these days. “The Lego Movie” looks really bright and vivid all the way through, with some pretty decent camera approaches to help give the environment more substantial credibility. The film is presented in a 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 video transfer that exhibits no grain (duh) but uses superb coloration from start to finish. The “worlds” depicted here shift from land to sea to urban to everything in between, and visually, they work extremely well. When fire shows up or an explosion occurs, the orange hue to the on screen image is powerful enough to make you squint, yet it doesn’t feel domineering or overwhelming, somehow. The way the filmmakers illustrate water is also impressive, with blue Lego pieces and beads rippling under boats or out of a shower head. It’s a very inviting film for your eyes, and my guess is that kids will especially like the attention to detail in the worlds that Emmet navigates.
The thing I remember most from “The Lego Movie” and its audio track is the song “Everything is Awesome!!!” which plays in the background as Emmet is going about his day. It’s a sort of trance song that will forever be etched in my ears with little yellow people dancing in the background. Otherwise, there aren’t any real issues with the spoken words or with the natural background noise. Footsteps aren’t all that pronounced here, but the noises the characters generate from aircraft, cars, gunfire and so on come through a-okay. The film uses an English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio soundtrack very well, so much so I had to drop the volume down a few notches from my standard default setting. Other audio choices are French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1s. Subtitle choices are French, English and Spanish.
This is where things get really, really cool. The edition Warner Bros. sent me is the “Everything is Awesome Edition,” which included a Blu-ray 3D version of the film, a traditional Blu-ray version, a standard definition DVD and a digital copy. Everything comes in this really cool clear plastic box, which includes your own personal Emmet Lego figure as well as a Vitruvius figure. A stand up 3D Emmet face looks back at you as you see the package art.
I haven’t even gotten to the content on the discs yet! You’ll find a few featurettes, an audio commentary with the directors and some of the big name voice actors, outtakes, a sing-along to “Everything is Awesome!!!” and some profiles of real world Lego builders. It’s ever so cool.
A Final Word:
I literally laughed out loud during “The Lego Movie.” And I know I’ll do so again when I watch it again. Which I know I will. Soon. Because it’s great. Really great. So great that you’ll want to share the experience with everyone around you, of all ages and all film preferences.