The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Lego Movie

The LEGO Movie is a huge win for the LEGO company, not just because it's good, but because it eloquently represents what their product stands for. Concepts like “branding” and “synergy” are often (rightfully) met with skepticism by the general public. It would be easy to be cynical about this film, to view it as little more than a 100-minute toy commercial. While there's no doubt that The LEGO Movie is going to sell a lot of little plastic building blocks, it goes beyond mere commercialism to get at something more fundamental, namely the sense of personal expression that has led so many people of all ages to play with this toy for so many decades. The LEGO Movie could have gone wrong in myriad ways, but writer/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) were clearly aware of every single one of them, and they've studiously avoided them all.

Set in the city of Brickville, this is the story of Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), an average construction worker with absolutely nothing that sets him apart, although he doesn't realize this. One day after work, he discovers something called the Piece of Resistance. This mysterious item is much desired by Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a tycoon who controls most everything in the city, is obsessed with “perfection,” and has an evil plan to ensure that nothing ever changes. He sends his minions, led by the self-explanatory Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), to track Emmet down and take possession of the Piece of Resistance. Fortunately, Emmet earns the help of a sassy female rebel named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the wizened figure Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and an assortment of “master builders,” including Batman (Will Arnett). Using their shared skill of assembling blocks in useful ways, they fight to keep the city free. But it might be the less obviously inspired Emmet who is the best builder of all.

The LEGO Movie is beautifully animated, with expansive block environments and characters who move in suitably blocky ways. There's a lot of cleverness in how every single thing in this world is made of LEGOs, including water and smoke. Many of the different iterations of LEGO toys factor into the story - LEGO City, LEGO Batman, the '80s space LEGOs, etc. - making it relatable to anyone who's ever tinkered with them. It's a blast watching the characters traverse through all the different themes used over the years. The film has also got a lot of great humor. Chris Pratt is hilarious as the enthusiastically clueless Emmet, and the jokes are wall-to-wall. Some are verbal (keep your ears peeled for a couple funny references to other movies), others are visual. Most are in the foreground, but occasionally you'll find something in the background that elicits a huge laugh. One sequence, paying homage to an oft-LEGOfied sci-fi classic that also happens to be my all-time favorite film, made me laugh so hard that my 5-year-old son had to tell me to be quiet. Lord and Miller make great use of 3D, as well. Aside from making the LEGO world look wide and deep, the third dimension gives the many action scenes an extra kick. For instance, when something explodes, LEGO bricks appear to be falling all around you.

The best thing about The LEGO Movie is that, just when you think it's almost over, the plot throws in a whole new wrinkle that sets it off in a vastly different – and entirely meaningful – direction. Without issuing any spoilers, I'll just say that the film sets its sights on exploring the real magic of LEGOs. There's a poignant message in the material: while following the instructions can lead to the creation of very cool things, tossing them and letting one's imagination run wild can lead to even cooler things. The LEGO Movie is devoted the idea that thinking outside the box – building something no one else ever thought to build – is what playing with LEGOs is all about. Just as Toy Story fundamentally understood why kids play with toys, The LEGO Movie understands why they play with LEGOs, and it seeks to nurture and encourage the personal creativity that defines the experience.

It works. As soon as the film ends, you just want to run out and play with LEGOs, to express yourself through the joy of invention, to see what amazing new thing your mind can come up with. What a great concept to impart to kids. And, for that matter, to adults. I played with LEGOs constantly as a child. Now that I'm a parent, I've been playing with them all over again, watching as my son learns to develop his own ideas and his own creativity. The LEGO Movie isn't here to sell you plastic building blocks, it's here to make you remember why playing with them is an essential and magical part of life.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

The Lego Movie
Own "THE LEGO MOVIE" now on Digital HD and on June 17th on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD 2-Disc Special Edition

The LEGO Movie arrives on home video in three different versions: a DVD, a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, and the one most highly recommended, an “Everything is Awesome Edition” Blu-Ray. This version contains the film in both 2D and 3D. If you're equipped for 3D at home, that's the optimal way to view the movie, as the technique is extremely well-used. A Vitruvius figure and a pop-out picture (suitable for displaying) are included in this nifty bundle.

The bonus features begin with a lively audio commentary featuring the filmmakers and cast. From there, we get several short segments. “Batman's A True Artist” is a music video for the song the Dark Knight sings in the movie, while “Michelangelo and Lincoln: History Cops” is a fake trailer featuring two of the supporting characters. “Enter the Ninjago” is a brief toon in which Emmet discovers that Ninjagos have been inserted into his movie. There's also an “Everything is Awesome Sing-Along” that puts the words to the catchy theme tune on the screen, along with some animation.

“Behind the Scenes: Bringing LEGO to Life” runs twelve minutes and covers the making of the movie. Among the subjects explored are character/production design, early animation, the filmmakers' visit to LEGO Land and the LEGO factory in Denmark, and the voice acting. It's informative and fun, especially the sections at LEGO headquarters, which looks like an amazing place.

“Behind the Scenes: See It, Build It!” is a multi-part series. Senior Designer Michael Fuller shows you how to build the double-decker sofa and Emmet's Car using real LEGOs. Modeling Artist Adam Ryan demonstrates LEGO Digital Designer, a software program anyone can download to create their own LEGO designs. He shows how to make those same items within the computer. Kids wanting to recreate the movie at home will especially enjoy this.

“Behind the Scenes: Stories From the Story Team” runs about four minutes and has storyboard artists and script supervisors discussing early concepts, changes, unused ideas, etc. “Fan-Made Films: Top-Secret Submissions” offers up 30-second LEGO movies made by fans as part of a contest. Also on the Blu-Ray are a two-minute fake blooper reel, an assortment of promotional content, and an animation test of Wildstyle building the motorcycle. Three minutes of storyboards for two unused sequences are here too, one involving Emmet in jail and the other with Wildstyle being held captive.

Last, but certainly not least, is “Dream Job: Meet the LEGO Builders” which takes you back to LEGO headquarters, where we meet the people whose job is to create new LEGO sets. We hear how they come up with ideas and how they spend their days letting their imaginations run free. Running about 13 minutes, it's a nice look at a dream job.

The LEGO Movie is great no matter which edition you purchase, although the “Everything is Awesome Edition” is something really special. This is a great film for families, but even if you don't have kids, you'll fall in love with it if you've ever picked up a familiar-looking building block.

The Lego Movie is rated PG for mild action and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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