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Wild, creative, smart, subversive, and great fun - with a heart
on 17 January 2015
One of my very favorite films of 2014.
What I worried would be a feature length commercial is instead a very funny, and somewhat subversive film, overflowing with ideas, puns, perfect music, and wacky 'cameos' by everyone from Shaquile O'Neil, to a wonderfully warped and dark Batman (given terrific voice by Will Arnet).
'Lego' doesn't look quite like any film I've seen before. It has a rough, almost bizarrely low- tech look to it's Lego people -- stop motion that looks like stop motion --oddly (but very effectively) combined with mind-blowingly huge and complicated shots of the Lego universe in action. Somehow in the unlikely mix of slickness and lo-fi something wonderful is created; animation that is wildly impressive, but also clearly human, creative and DIY at the same time.
The film is basically a spoof of every Hollywood vision-quest movie you've ever seen. You know the films. A young character (almost always male) is called on to save the world/neighborhood/kingdom. He's over-matched, and under prepared, but with a kindly older mentor of great power to guide him, you know he will find a way to prevail.
Except here the "special" character at the center really ISN'T very special. He's a young working guy like a million others, who's not very bright or especially brave, and who just wants to live his happy, blank, endlessly repetitive safe life. And the mentor? None other than the voice of Morgan Freeman, expertly spoofing his own image as the ultimate voice of wisdom. He plays a wizard who is far less consistently brilliant and all knowing than he claims or wants to be. He's very, very funny, which is not the first thing one thinks of with Morgan Freeman. The same could be said of Liam Neeson, who also does a great voice job as the good cop/bad cop, who's personality changes depending on what side of his head is facing front. Will Ferrell is also excellent as the villain of the piece, being just silly enough to be funny, but just real enough to give the story some real tension.
Not everything works, and there were a few spots near the end where the energy flagged. But overall this is an exciting and creative (and wonderfully fun) piece of film-making, that manages to attack the near fascist mentality of a society obsessed with consuming, and determined not to question it's own lives (it's not for nothing that the villain's name is 'President Business')-- while still being very funny, and almost never feeling like its preaching.
And without giving anything away, in the last 20 minutes it changes the rules again, and asks a few profound questions about the nature of existence, without seeming like it had suddenly jumped the track as a film for kids as well as adults.
In the end, I walked around with the hysterical, awful (in a great way), and when you think about it kinda dark anthem "Everything is Awesome" banging around in my head for days.