Where to begin? It’s got lots of LEGO and a dizzying array of jokes, some of which work and some of which don’t. It’s also got something kind of special these days—a mind. The LEGO Movie, of all things, has something to say. Something that even makes it science fiction of a sort (think a colorful, cute Matrix).
Yes, it’s built on a trope. In this case the special one who will rise to save the day. The clever conceit is that it erects that story on a scaffolding of nerd debates about LEGO, building a child’s toy block-by-block into universal lessons. Is LEGO just a toy for kids to run wild with in their imagination, or is it an intricate modeling kit for building, to exacting instruction, Millennium Falcons, Big Bens, and Hogwarts Academies? Or to make the meta point explicit, what is life about anyway: following the rules, or making your own?
As we all learn in growing up, it’s both, a little from Column A and a little from Column B. That’s where the LEGO movie winds up, but it’s a fun ride to get there.
Our erstwhile hero is Emmet. He’s a nondescript construction worker who does everything by the rules. He has an instruction manual for waking up, eating breakfast, showering, and putting on his clothes (“Uh, oh, almost forgot that one”), and he always sings the eternal Number 1 hit in Legoland: “Everything is Awesome.” Except maybe it’s not. Maybe he’s just a nondescript construction worker without any real friends who buys overpriced coffee because advertising tells him he should.
He’s starting to figure that out. That’s when he runs across WyldStyle. She’s a lady Lego who would rather risk being sliced to pieces by killer Lego-bots than sing “Everything is Awesome.” She’s searching for the legendary “Piece of Resistance” that will foil the evil plans of Lord Business (masquerading as President Business). Emmet gets in her way, gets melded to the “Piece of Resistance,” and suddenly he’s “The Special.” Everything depends on him, only he’s an idiot.
Except maybe he’s not. Perhaps the heroic Master Builders just need to see this lowly Muggle in a different light. Perhaps he can teach them something he’s learned from following the instructions all his life--teamwork. After all, Master Builders can dream the impossible dream, but somebody still has to build it.
I won’t give away the meta point. Suffice to say that maybe even President Business isn’t as heartless as he seems. They’re all caught in the same trap, trying to figure out a way to navigate an endless sea of rules and free will. To not wind up tired, worn down, and mean.
Can a Muggle show the way. Why not?
The cultural references, visuals and jokes are extremely dense, from Batman to Japanese animation, from silly sit coms to Abraham Lincoln. Superman’s disdain for Green Lantern is worth the price of admission alone. It’s a freak show with heart.
And a mind. Definitely worth a try.