Emmet (Pratt) is a happy member of the Lego community, constructing buildings and being entirely unremarkable. An accidental discovery opens his eyes to a world beyond his own and a destiny he is not prepared for.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the patron saints of lost causes in the movie world, having taken the book Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, which had no characters, and the TV show 21 Jump Street, which had no cachet, and turned them into funny, knowing, hit films that use low expectation as a licence for experimentation. The Lego Movie operates on the same terms. It is by some margin their weirdest movie. It is in many ways their most creative and ambitious, if not always their most focused, but it is definitely their weirdest.
Lego is an odd toy. It’s lots of tiny little bits of boring that combine to fit the shape of your imagination. It doesn’t have a story or defined characters. It is by its nature surreal, a toy where pirates mix with spacemen and buildings fly. Lord and Miller have seized that free-for-all nature for their film, which begins as the story of a generic drone (Chris Pratt) who discovers he’s destined to save the world, then reassembles itself over and over into whatever — Western, sci-fi, seafaring adventure — seems like it might be fun next. If the spoken jokes are uneven, the visual humour is constantly astonishing. Lego has no rules and the directors don’t mean to make any.
There is a downside to this level of creative freedom: it easily turns to chaos. The middle of the movie is an avalanche of ideas that seem random at the time, and it becomes rather fidgety, with the suggestion that there’s no real aim to it. Yet there is, with an ending of affectionate, loopy brilliance that ties together everything that’s happened previously in a way that makes sense of the nonsensical. It is mad, but also strangely moving.
It’s very hard to believe that a major studio gave a fairly major budget (around $60 million) to a film with the sensibility of a homemade passion project, with only a very loose structure, little mind for logic and absolutely no reverence for its subject. Well, thank goodness it did, as for all its faults, The Lego Movie is bursting out of its box with enthusiasm and excitement for the possibilities of a little pile of nubby plastic.
The makers could have easily Smurfed this, chucking out something bland that would probably still make a chunky profit on the back of brand recognition. Instead they’ve gone for broke, unleashing a film that’s insane, witty, uneven and almost certain to delight anyone who’s ever laid hands on Lego.