‘The Lego Movie’ Review: Funny Pieces Don't Click With Heavy-Handed Message (Video)

This is an animated comedy-adventure with a moral — and the movie will grind to a halt to deliver it, even when it spoils the fun

As fewer and fewer entertainment entities own more and more properties (looking at you, Disney/Lucasfilm/Marvel Comics), the possibilities of mixing and matching and crossing over become endless. (Just ask comedian Patton Oswalt, whose filibuster on “Parks and Recreation” about crossing “Star Wars” with “The Avengers” became a viral sensation.)

LG-FP-082At its best, “The Lego Movie” highlights the possibilities of such unfettered combinations of pop culture staples, celebrating the childhood ethos of dumping all your toys on the floor and letting Barbie take Pikachu to G.I. Joe's fort so they can fight off the dread Raggedy Andy.

In the same way that “Toy Story 2” supported using and loving your toys rather than imprisoning them as collectibles in mint packaging, “The Lego Movie” endorses throwing out the instruction guides and letting your Justice League, Simpsons and Lord of the Rings playsets commingle.

See video: Chris Pratt Chosen to Save the Lego Universe in Warner Bros. Trailer

Said endorsement is made clear enough that even the youngest audience members will get the message, but where “The Lego Movie” goes astray is in grinding the movie to a halt to make sure that message is understood by every single ticket buyer. It's the kind of spoon-feeding that's insulting to both children and their minders, and it sucks the fun out of what is otherwise a fast-moving lark of an animated comedy-adventure.

In the grooved-plastic world dominated by the evil Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), everyone's a conformist dullard, following instructions about every facet of the day, numbing their brains with overpriced coffee, irritatingly catchy pop songs (get ready for Jo-Li and the Lonely Island's “Everything is Awesome” to invade your cerebral cortex) and inane sitcoms like “Where Are My Pants?” (As happy, dopey dystopias go, it's not too far removed from the one in “Idiocracy.”)

Hear audio: ‘LEGO Movie’ Song ‘Everything is AWESOME': The Catchiest (and Dumbest) Song You'll Hear This Week

A cheery cog in the machine is Emmet (Chris Pratt), someone so lacking in identity that even in this blank world he's considered a nobody. That all changes when he stumbles upon the Piece of Resistance, the only artifact that can destroy Lord Business’ power by nullifying his super-weapon, the Kragl. Rescued by mystic Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and rebel Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Emmet is assumed to be “the chosen,” a master builder who will save this reality from Lord Business’ crushing conformity.

The plot, such as it is, exists mostly as a framework to spotlight the many characters featured in the Lego universe, and you don't have to be a Comic-Con pass-holder to enjoy watching Batman (Will Arnett) rub shoulders with Han Solo (Keith Ferguson) and Shaquille O'Neal (as himself).

The quartet of writers (directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” and Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman of “Hotel Transylvania”) seem to be having the most fun when they get to toss out non sequiturs like an encounter between Michelangelo, the artist and architect, and Michelangelo, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Also read: ‘Matrix’ Bullet Time Scene Re-Created … in Legos

But while the film's underlying message about creative independence and playfulness is a strong one, the movie takes a third-act turn (which won't be spoiled here) that's bold but ultimately wrong-headed, restating what we've already figured out and ruining the delicate balance of this movie's goofy, click-and-snap universe.

Bright, colorful, fast and noisy, “The Lego Movie” will doubtless tickle young fans of the toys. It's just too bad that a movie that encourages you to think for yourself doesn't follow its own advice.

  • Racqueteer

    You're disappointed that it didn't adhere to a formula more strictly in the third act but you finish with wishing the movie to have stayed away from the regular movie formula? Make up your mind. Did it follow the formula too much or too little for you?

    • Alonso Duralde

      Greetings: I don't believe I mention “formula” anywhere in the piece. My objection has to do with the film taking its easily-understood subtext and making it text. And that's about as much as I can say without getting into spoiler territory.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Bruce

        you're so disappointing, on so many levels……..

    • Oskar Schindler

      The movie total blows. I can't believe parents actually enjoyed this thing. Children under the age of 10, sure. But parents? Just proof the average IQ in this country has significantly dropped…

  • Brick Dad

    I, and my kids, loved the third act. It really brought the movie home for Lego families everywhere.

  • Feliciano Mora

    As a guy that literally has been on both sides depicted in that third act, it was welcome, dead on, and a great way to hopefully shut down the sequel-itous syndrome. This was an intellectual property I'd grown up with having now caught up with me. I thought it was perfect.

  • JesseS

    Couldn't disagree more sorry, I though the third act was, by far, the strongest. If fact, while this might be because you're working hard to have any spoilers I find myself struggling to understand what you're complaining about.

    That the movie was perfectly ok with following its plot through to the logical conclusion?

    (MASSIVE SPOILER) The father as Lord Business and the son just wanting to have fun was touching and well put together. It wasn't surprising, no, but this wasn't a mystery movie, it had no need for a twist ending.

    Also I have to strongly disagree with you on this;

    “The plot, such as it is, exists mostly as a framework to spotlight the many characters featured in the Lego universe…”

    Sure there was lots of silly fun cameos, but except for Batman (who, frankly, is now my favourite version of that character) all the other major players were original characters that were all hilarious and brilliant riffs on old tropes. Morgan Freeman's Vitruvius as the Wise Old Man, Liam Neeson's Good Cop/Bad Cop? These were great, and really played to the central theme of not just following the instructions.

    • many_Panic

      Honestly, i think he's being contrarian for the sake of it. The third act threw me off, but i quickly bounced back and applauded their cohesive structure while also making it coherent to the central plotline. The sub-text bit is an argument in and of it self. Sure we understood the plot and could've gotten a typical, formulaic conclusion where our hero taps into his hidden potential and saves the world. They took a chance and decided to be story tellers (shocking in this day and age isn't it), they decided to captivate and leave the audience with a treat worth the admission price. It's not something new though, a cynic might say alittle bit of a reach for obvious marketing purpose, not worth such a harsh review though.

  • turnoffthenight

    well you are just as blind…. as a guy… who's eyes stopped working..

  • Carolyne

    I've looked all over for a review that discusses the problematic third act. I wish you'd found a way to explain your views on it without being spoilery, but I understand why you chose not to go into more detail. Being thrown out of the fantasy into what completely mismatches my own reality (the type of characters revealed at the end) was jarring and destructive. The world the movie constructed became “oh, just another movie about people like this.” I watched to the end with a grimace while the friend is gone with, for whom both the fantasy and the “reality” could reflect their world, finished the movie in utter joy. For them it was elating; for me and some others, a sad letdown.

  • Weirdguy13

    spoiler alert

    the live-action part ruined the ENTIRE movie for me, because everything that happened was just a kid playing with lego's

    • person

      It wasn't. (spoiler) How did Emmet move while atop the desk in the live action sequence, so the kid would know to give him the piece of resistance and send him through the portal? He moved on his own, so it's not entirely the kid.

      • Weirdguy13

        Woopdeedoo, one single Lego guy is alive.
        Besides Emmet the rest weren't alive.