It’s difficult to write a review for this wonderful film when I am a week late to the discussion, all the “everything is awesome” jokes have been made, all brick puns exhausted, and masterpieces like this exist. But then again, wasn’t the whole message of the film to do my own thing anyway?
The plot revolves around Emmet, an ordinary construction worker in Bricksburg, a town under the thumb of Orwellian villain President Business, but he doesn’t realize anything is really that wrong with his world. After fateful coincidence, he finds out he is “The Special”, and is destined to save the Lego Universe from being wiped out by President Business.
This is a film that seems to be aware an audience is watching it. It provides tongue-in-cheek jokes about its pre-existing characters as if it has a finger to the pulse ot the internet. Batman elaborates on how dark, brooding and parentless he is. Green Lantern idolizes Superman, who does not return those affections. Gandalf and Dumbledore are constantly mistaken for the other. Shaq not only voices himself, but asks us if we’re ready for this. Cat posters, while they are cat posters, do have some truth to them.
The thing that makes the animation special here is that it wears the mechanics of its making on it’s sleeve, always unashamedly, but never uncreatively. It’s almost a hybrid of computer animation and stop motion. Characters move in the start-stop unsmooth motion they would if we were controlling them. When an explosion occurs, we watch it be constructed as if it was a building. Water takes the form of small Lego pieces, and fire appears as a Lego piece itself. It effectively exceeds the limitations it sets out for itself by embracing them.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have done a remarkable achievement. Not only have they just made a 2-hour commercial, they made one that meant something. This could have been any old cash grab from an existing marketable property, but their filmography (“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, “21 Jump Street”) indicated otherwise. These co-directors understand post-modern filmmaking. They understand how to make a joking reference without holding up their hand for a desperate high-five afterwards. They understand the “instructions” of the genres they work in, and are able to create their own interesting products out of them. This is without a doubt, the first truly great film of 2014.