Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Lego Movie: it's a precision interlocking brick recreational product

The Lego Movie made back its budget in the opening weekend. At one point its RottenTomatoes rating was 100%; even now it’s 96%, higher than most of this year’s Oscar nominees. Considering that most movies based on best selling toys are less fun than shoving the toys up your arse during an earthquake in an acid factory….

It’s a pretty good movie, which is why I’m not going to say much about it. It’s fun, and for once it’s a movie that’s as clever as it thinks it is. The visual effects are smart and often spectacular, and I liked it that everything was done with bricks, even smoke effects. Of course there are pop culture references, but they’re funny. And of course it’s self-aware, but it’s nicely bitter about it. The plot is pretty much Toy Story crossed with The Matrix, but they’ve got a hard headed spin on the whole idea of special ones come to save everyone and everything. Look, just go and see it; for once it’s one of those things where everyone is doing it and they’re not wrong. Just come late enough to miss the trailers; because it’s a kids movie, they’re trailing such wonderful things as Rio 2 and the breathtakingly unnecessary Avatarzan which someone somewhere has decided we all have to get.

I wanted to have a good refreshing rant at this point about how The Lego Movie is all very well, but for all the messages about imagination and master-building, the reality is that there’s less and less scope for imagination in Lego every year. Most of the sets which come out these days seem to be tied into movies, and you get a box of parts which lets you build something you’ve seen in Star Wars or Indiana Jones or whatever. And it all has to be just so, which did leave me scratching my head a bit at the way the movie wants you to think that just following the instructions is a bad idea.

I used to worry more about the way that the bricks were getting ever more specialised, so that no matter what you wanted to build there’d turn out to be a special brick which would handle just that problem; no imagination or creativity required from the user at all. But I’ve watched my nephews do whatever the hell they feel like with the specialist bricks and I realise that I’m just an old grouch on that one.

I still can’t shake the annoyance with the movie tie-ins. It’s great marketing, but somehow I don’t want Lego to be something that markets itself.

Which swivels me back into the movie, in a way. The villain of the piece is Lord (later President) Business, and Fox News has been having a gratifying case of the vapours about the anti-business message of the movie. Yet for all the vapours, Lego is a business; the movie’s the most fun I’ve had watching an advert in years, but it’s an advert. And Lord Business gets rehabilitated in the end, showing that we can all live happily after in capitalism. As if.

And yet. It’s fun watching them rip the piss out of Batman, and I could watch a whole movie which was just Liam Neeson’s Bad Cop growling at things (that will be next week, come to think of it, if I go and see Non-Stop). And Unikitty practically deserves her own movie as well; I loved the way that she yammered out about rainbows and kittens and happy thoughts and then suddenly broke character to show the raging monster I’ve learned to assume is ALWAYS lurking behind those happy-clappy cheerleader facades.

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