I agree with fellow LFB writer Steve Duffy’s assessment that The LEGO Movie is great. It’s an assessment shared by seemingly almost everyone, what with its 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (even professional grumpy-pants Armond White has unexpectedly been swayed by its charms, even if he predictably has to justify that by arguing that other people who like both this and Pixar movies are idiots and other typical Armond White junk).
I do, however, strongly disagree with his suggestion to “don’t pay much attention to the socio-political resistance overtones, because honestly your kids won’t even notice, just sit back and enjoy.”
I have to ask, why shouldn’t you pay attention to it? Because “your kids won’t even notice”? Never mind the fact that some kids probably will notice (the 4-year-olds just enjoying the cool toys and pretty colors won’t, but smart 10-12 year olds should definitely be able to grasp many of the decidedly unsubtle themes), but why do you need to watch this movie on the same level as your kids?
Great family movies, like ogres and onions, have layers. The Incredibles is simultaneously a fun action movie, a midlife crisis story, and a libertarian satire. Wall-E‘s slapstick love story and adorable robots are memorable, but so are its images of post-apocalyptic desolation and its horrifying view of a corporatized future. Antz takes the “be yourself” message of many a children’s film and places it in the context of what’s essentially a political Woody Allen movie (OK, given the news this past week, maybe we don’t wanna rewatch that one; I still argue it’s 1998’s best bug movie and you can fight me on that!).
And The LEGO Movie? It’s got lots of layers. There’s so much going on in this movie that I feel like I need to watch it again to even process all the jokes and details. It’s amazing eye candy (a mix of stop-motion and CGI so realistic you can’t even tell what parts are using real LEGOs and which are computer models) and energized like a child’s playtime, so yeah, I’m sure it works for the youngest viewers. But the audience I saw it with (mostly teenagers and a few older adults, at a 2D afternoon matinee in a small town theater) also enjoyed it, and for more reasons (I wouldn’t say “different reasons”, since those kid-appealing aspects are so damn good they still hold appeal for older viewers as well, but those viewers will get more things out if it).
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have put together a hilarious satire of conformity, a knowing subversion of generic blockbuster cliches (anyone sick of prophecy stories, you’ll appreciate this one), a self-reflection on manchild-ness, and yes, a socio-political resistance story. The latter contains obvious references to The Matrix, but the movie itself reminds me more of the Matrix‘s directors’ own attempt at a family film, Speed Racer (which just so happens to be one of a dozen or so brands to make a LEGO cameo). Like that movie, The LEGO Movie gleefully celebrates capitalist product from a childlike perspective while simultaneously biting the hand that feeds it.
I guess if you’re inclined to do so you can try to criticize the film’s satire, but I enjoyed it. The movie’s multiple messages, some aimed more at kids, other more at adults, are pretty well thought-out, and help elevate the movie from merely extremely fun to memorably great.
Yeah, The LEGO Movie is great. Or should I say, AWESOME!?!