When I first saw trailers for The Lego Movie, I thought, “The animation kids at art school are going to die over this.” And die they did.
The film is stunning. But ten-year-old audience members will be scratching their heads at some of its humor.
The script, written by the same guys who did Hotel Transylvania, is steeped in over-the-top, Invader Zim-style shouting that I secretly love. The gems of it, surprisingly, are smart jokes we oldies get.
One of the universes in the film, Viking’s Landing, is described as featuring “illiteracy,” and when WildStyle (Elizabeth Banks), recruits Emmet (Chris Pratt) to save the day, she describes Batman as “a real artist, dark and brooding.” The script is so tongue-in-cheek that younglings might not get it, but we do.
“This is an original song,” Batman tells Emmet. “It’s about me being an orphan.” Smart pop culture references abound!
The film is packed with not-so-subtle riffs on other franchises that, like Legos, have driven people insane, including Nolan’s Dark Knight series, The Terminator (“Come with me if you want to not die,” WyldStyle tells Emmet), Tim Burton’s original Batman films (before Schumacher took over), Star Wars and Lord of the Rings (the fantasy realm is called Middle Zealand, a play on Middle Earth and the place where Peter Jackson filmed the trilogy.)
The full list of references is covered in this EW article, which, like the next two paragraphs, contains some spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop reading.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of MeatBalls, 21 Jump Street), the film diminished in scope and grandeur slightly when it revealed that this awesome Lego world, with all its interior universes, merely exists on someone’s play table.
The dictator of Lego World, President Business, wants to control everything and “destroy the world” by gluing everything down with “The Kragle” (a tube of crazy glue), making the Lego people unable to build anew (or, for that matter, move).
Along comes the Resistance, a secret band of “Master Builders,” who have been waiting for a Messiah-like figure called “The Special” to appear in accordance to an 8-year-old prophecy that we later learn is totally made up (a ballsy jab at that other really old document about the return of a Messiah).
That “Special,” quite by accident, is Emmet, an ordinary guy who isn’t a Master Builder at all. Will he save the day? Will there be laughs? Go see the movie. You’ll be glad you did.