Sometimes scheduling keeps a reviewer from getting to a movie before it opens, and sometimes, that’s just Awesome. In the case of the exceptional “The Lego Movie,” from directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, getting to see their pyrotechnic computer-animated fantasia with a packed, thrilled, paying audience was a sweet treat, especially since its wall-to-wall Mad-magazine-like visual tapestry also draws subversively on any number of movies that would include but hardly be limited to the epic paranoia of John Carpenter’s “They Live” and “The Matrix,” as well as the Wachowskis’ most-misunderstood carpet-bombing of form, “Speed Racer.” (In the case of “The Lego Movie,” something is hardly rotten from the state of Denmark.) It’s not quite the communist insurrection that some commentators of predictable bent have called it, but it’s assuredly the most sophisticated release of the winter crop of new movies—simply cinema. The whole conceit sounds implausible and unworkable and yet, in interviews, the directorial team, previously behind “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs” and the live-action “21 Jump Street,” say that’s their entire reason for taking on a project. How can those skittering, scuffed-up, blocky little figures project personality and comic timing? With ease, aplomb and restless, reckless invention. And a real screenplay with true turns, and a script-flipped story of the everyman who finds the way to become “The Special” and defeat the likes of President Business/Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). Plus: the first candidate for movie song of the year, “Everything Is Awesome!,” a collaboration between Tegan & Sara and The Lonely Island. “Everything is better when we stick together.” There are a dozen little jokes and bits that rise above the general level of amazement, but it’s worth your time to discover instead of me preempting by synopsis and/or recitation. I hate it when an internet post ends this way, but it’s all you’re going to get from this review: “Enjoy!” The propulsive music is by Mark Mothersbaugh, Tegan & Sara contribute to the theme song, and the editing is by David Burrows and former Chicagoan Chris McKay (“Bullet on a Wire,” “Robot Chicken”). With the voices of Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, David Burrows, Anthony Daniels, Jonah Hill, Dave Franco, Jake Johnson, Billy Dee Williams, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Shaquille O’Neal, Cobie Smulders, Jorma Taccone, Channing Tatum and as the voice of god as the voice of Morgan Freeman, Morgan Freeman. 100m. (Ray Pride)
“The Lego Movie” is now playing. The Tegan & Sara video is below, as well as a “bloopers” reel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.