Everything actually is awesome
Loves: Legos, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, animation, Lord & Miller
Likes: The rest of the cast
Dislikes: the collector mentality in toys
Hates: Nothing about this movie
The thing is, though an assortment of video-game adaptations of major media franchises (and some related short films) Lego has achieved a branded sense of humor that could work in a movie. It's a goofy, irreverent and wholly good-natured sensibility, and it played up the idea of a world made from the construction toys. That the iconic minifigures who populate any Lego world are inherently adorable doesn't hurt either.
What's more important is the talent that was brought in, in front of and behind the "camera". It all starts with the writing and directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. As shown with their work on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, they know how to handle animation and they understand how to entertain all the people watching, The Lego Movie pulsates with that sense of pure joy that's infectious, as they tell the tale of Emmet (Chris Pratt), an everyday normal minifigure, living his life by the instructions (a smart pick-up from the Lego toy concept), when one day he finds his life thrown into chaos when he meets Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who believes him to the be special person who will lead the rebellion against Lord Business (Will Ferrell), the tyrannical ruler who keeps order in the world of Legos.
The animation is just gorgeous in this film, as the look of Legos is observed to an almost religious degree. Every piece of the movie can be made with real Lego pieces, from the bubbles in Emmet's shower to the dust clouds in a wild west chase. The ability to lend a hand-crafted look to this world is what ramps the charm up a few levels, but the voice performances by the talented cast is the real selling point. Pratt is capable of a goofy enthusiasm and innocence (not straying far from his Parks and Recreation character) that is key to Emmet being a quality hero, while Banks can cover the gamut from action heroine to vulnerability. Arnett's deep yet smooth sound makes for a perfect parody of the Dark Knight, and Brie is mostly unrecognizable, yet perfectly sweet and off-kilter. But if anyone gets more out of less, it's Day, who, in the span of two words, crafts his character and makes him truly hilarious and memorable. And beyond the main cast, there's an assortment of impressive names and fun performances, including Liam Neeson, Jake Johnson, Keegan Michael Key, Cobie Smulders and many more, including some friends from another famous Lego galaxy.
You'll be going along with this fantasy adventure, when all of a sudden the film takes a dramatic left turn. As I felt when I first saw the movie in theaters, to reveal what happens here is just heartless, as it's something that really should be experienced, so as to not rob the film of the effect. If you've seen it, you know that this moment, which was rather unexpected, is very sweet and touching, though rather out of sync with the feel of the rest of the movie (though certainly not the message, and definitely not the story, which is what makes it brilliant.) The tone shift is a bit jarring, and it all but kills the momentum that's been building, but it's important to the film and makes the whole package work. It also lets Ferrell have an opportunity to shine.
It's hard to find fault with this movie, because it all feels like it's there for the right reason. Every joke is honest, every character has purpose and the overall integration of the Lego aesthetic and concept is perfect. It's hard to truly describe a commercial tie-in studio film with a budget of $60 million as a labor of love, but under Lord and Miller, that's certainly the feel here.
The visuals were expected to be solid, but the audio is where this movie lives or dies, as so much of the energy and joy is created in the sound. Fortunately, this track is as good as the video, with excellent placement in the surrounds, beautiful movement across channels, ever-present and appropriate atmospheric effects, crisp dialogue and deep bass in the low-end. After one big battle scene, you'll be forgiven for jumping to another one to experience the film's true aural highs, while the fantastic voice acting shines in this mix. A tremendous job all around.
If you're looking for more info though, with just a hint of the commentary's humor, "Bring Lego to Life" (12:56) might do the trick, as it covers most every aspect of the film's production, but with the conceit that Emmet is real and was part of the whole project. It's cute and amusing, and lets you see more of how this very unique project came together.
A pair of deleted scenes (5:30), which hail from a time before the voice actors came on-board, are offered as animatics, with a jail scene between Emmet and Vitruvius and a fun interrogation scene with Wildstyle and a lie detector. Both have their moments, but weren't needed. For more insight into the excised, the team that storyboarded the film gives you a peek into their effort also with "Stories from the Story Team" (4:02), which mixes storyboards, scratch dialogue and animatics under voiceover from team members, who share tales of plot elements that were removed from the final film.
Three silly shorts showcase the film's meta mindset and goofy humor. "Batman's a True Artist" is a lo-fi hand-made video for the dark rap-metal song Batman sings during the credits. It's something to behold. "Michelangelo and Lincoln: History Cops" (1:21) pairs the artist and the president (Will Forte) in a grindhouse trailer for a buddy cop film (which is just as enjoyable as that idea sounds), while "Enter the Ninjago" (2:13) shows what happens when Hollywood gets its hands on Emmet's story and tries to appeal to target audiences (again, a fun little romp.) Along similar lines, the next piece, "Top-Secret Submissions", allows Pratt to get on-camera to introduce some fan-made films (3:51), including a reel of contenders, and three that won a contest to appear in a scene in the actual movie. The creative on-display is quite impressive, even in comparison to the film itself.
The outtakes reel that follows, which feels a bit manufactured, is 2:33 of severe silliness, right down to random hits of a Batman's grappling hook (but it's still a good time). There's also 53 seconds of test animation from the motorcycle-building scene with Emmet and Wildstyle, to show a rougher form of the film's animation.
Naturally, there's a sing-along for the film's iconic "Everything is Awesome" song (3:19), but rather than just stripping the lyrics across the bottom of the screen, they are integrated into the animation of the video, raising the whole thing up a notch.
Moving from the film to the toys, a section of tutorials are available, titled "See it, Build it" (12:18) with two members of Lego's design team. With each taking a turn, they show you how to build Emmet's double-decker couch and his car, once with real Legos and once with Legos' digital software. What's great is art director Michael Fuller doesn't attempt to directly match the couch from the movie and makes a number of alterations to each design, encouraging builders to do their own thing and use their imaginations.
A further look inside the world of Lego comes in the form of "Dream Job: Meet the Lego Builders." Certified builders work at Lego building and designing models, with an embarrassing wealth of bricks and supplies at their disposal. They were tapped to change existing models into new weaponized vehicles for use in the film, not to mention a major model seen in the movie. Here you get to check out their efforts in more detail and appreciate their artistry.
Wrapping things up on disc, there's three additional bits of promotional content, which run 3:51. These are trailers from somewhere, with one serving as an odd Chinese New Year celebration featuring Emmet, one with a rather difficult Batman and another featuring the main characters' auditions for the film. These are cute, but some of it is seen elsewhere in the extras.
On the box, a big announcement says "Includes BONUS 3D MOVIE", but all that means is the movie is also included in 3D (a disappointment, since we're a bit conditioned to expect big animated movies to be accompanied by shorts.) In the box though is the standing, embossed picture of Emmet, which stands (about an inch thick) thanks to a fold-out easel back. There's also an exclusive minifigure of Vitruvius, which differs from the one in the Lord Business' Evil Lair construction set. This version, taken from the beginning of the film, has black eyes (instead of white), a silver headband (instead of red) and a closed robe with an amulet (and unfortunately no staff.) Also, this may be a standard for Legos, but it's odd that you can take his beard off.
The Bottom Line