The LEGO Movie stars Chris Pratt as the voice of Emmet, an ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, and Will Ferrell as the voice of President Business, aka Lord Business, an uptight CEO who has a hard time balancing world domination with micro-managing his own life. Voicing the members of Emmet's rebel crew on this heroic mission are Morgan Freeman as the ancient mystic Vitruvius; Elizabeth Banks as tough-as-nails Wyldstyle, who mistakes Emmet for the savior of the world and guides him on his quest; Will Arnett as the mysterious Batman, a LEGO minifigure with whom Wyldstyle shares a history; Nick Offerman as the craggy, swaggering pirate Metal Beard, obsessed with revenge on Lord Business; Alison Brie as the sweet and loveable Unikitty and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something Spaceman.
There's no way this should work, but...
Writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed their first CGI animated feature -- 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' -- in 2009 before moving into R-rated live action with '21 Jump Street' in 2012, and have returned to animation for 'The LEGO Movie'. (They also wrote and executive produced 'Cloudy 2'.)
Honestly, I'm simply in awe of these filmmakers (and the artistic teams they assemble).
Sure, the first 'Cloudy' was creative, odd, and a lot of fun, but who would have guessed what they could do with 'Jump Street'? So many bad TV-show-to-movie adaptations think the only way to update older properties is to add post-modern cynicism and irony. '21 Jump Street' is a genuinely hilarious movie with solid character arcs and smart meta-commentary on Hollywood story structure as well as the inherent laziness of reboots. I'm so, so excited for '22 Jump Street', which is getting some promising early buzz.
So why mention all these other productions? They all share a common theme of earnestly embracing material while poking fun at inherent commercial requirements. 'The LEGO Movie' could have been a lazy cash-in, simply referencing various brands within its universe. How were the filmmakers going to tie together all of these disparate universes and brands? How could it be anything more than synergy and branding and all sorts of other corporate buzzwords that end up creating paint-by-numbers committee movies?
Instead, 'The LEGO Movie' is an absolute joy. Endless verbal and visual gags. More commentary on story structure (this timing taking on The Chosen One / Hero's Journey). Terrific action. And, at its heart, a moving, emotional story we can't really talk about without diving into spoilers.
But I'm way ahead of myself here. What the heck is this movie about anyway?
'The LEGO Movie' opens on the magical Vitruvius (Morgran Freeman) trying to protect an ultimate weapon -- the Kragel -- from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). When Lord Business blinds and defeats Vitruvius, Vitruvius makes a prophesy, saying The Special will come one day and is destined to find the Piece of Resistance, the only thing in the known universe that can stop the Kragel.
Eight and a half years later, we meet Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), a LEGO construction worker so plain and average and forgettable, no one really knows who he is or what he likes. Emmet's an extremely enthusiastic person, but you can tell being alone all the time is starting to wear him down and he doesn't understand why. He follows all the instructions.
One night, after Emmet sees a mysterious beautiful woman digging around his construction site, he falls into a deep underground shaft where he accidentally finds the Piece of Resistance and becomes The Special before passing out.
When Emmet wakes, Bad Cop / Good Cop (Liam Neeson) has captured him. An agent of Lord Business, BC/GC won't let Emmet stop Business' evil plans to destroy the LEGO universe in three days (on Taco Tuesday). But before Emmet and the Piece of Resistance can be melted down, the mysterious beautiful woman returns to rescue Emmet. Her name: Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks). Wildstyle is excited at first to have found the Special, but quickly realizes Emmet is very much the wrong guy.
The Special is supposed to be a Master Builder. That is, a person who can build LEGO props and vehicles and devices out of any available LEGOs without the help of instructions (remember: Emmet can only follow instructions). How in the world is he supposed to lead a fellowship to defeat Lord Business and stop the Kragel???
What follows is a classic quest tale through all sorts of crazy LEGO universes, through various brands. There are cowboys and pirates and astronauts and DC Comics super heroes and wizards and unicorn-kitties and robots and even 'Star Wars' characters. Seriously, have you ever wondered what would happen if Batman got to hang out with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando? Well, now you get to find out.
'The LEGO Movie' is impossibly creative on all levels. Produced mostly as CGI animation, with a wee bit of live action stop motion, the first thing you will notice is all the world details. The film uses real LEGO pieces for everything, even little things like water droplets, which not only sets up many jokes, but is also wonderfully engrossing. You'd swear this was an impeccable stop-motion production. It looks like photo-realistic toys have come to life in a way where you could create these environments in your home.
From a story standpoint, 'The LEGO Movie' is a film for all ages and all audiences. It balances multiple tones, deftly weaves a story that both embraces its synergistic origins while poking fun at it and all sorts of evil villain / The Chosen One quest movies. What's so impressive to me here is how every moment manages to be a joke / serve character arcs / move the plot along all at once. And what it all means in the end… Again, I'm bumping up against revealing plot points, but the way this movie concludes truly elevates the whole piece.
'The LEGO Movie' embraces the child in us all (and, you know, is good for actual children), giving audiences a sense of imagination and wonder and adventure that you probably haven't experienced since you were building and tearing down your own LEGOs (or whatever toy was popular in your day). I laughed. I was genuinely touched. And I still can't get that damn song out of my head ("Everything is awesome..."). I suppose that's the only problem with the movie. If you have children, they're going to sing this song (and the 'Frozen' soundtrack) for the next year straight. So good luck to you. Thanks to productions like this one and 'Cloudy' and '21 Jump Street', I shall from this point forward sprint to every Lord and Miller movie opening weekend, shouting "Take my money!"
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The LEGO Movie' debuts on Blu-ray as part of a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet edition. Region locking information is unclear at this time, however it is marked "not authorized for sale or rental outside the USA." Other than advertisements for UltraViolet and Legoland Resorts, there are no forced trailers.
You can also purchase 'The LEGO Movie - 3D' as part of the Everything Is Awesome Edition, which includes a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet along with an "exclusive Vitruvius Leg Minifigure and a large "3D Emmet Photo".
'The LEGO Movie' debuts on Blu-ray with a gorgeous, resplendent AVC MPEG-4 encode framed in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Much like its 3D version, 'The LEGO Movie' in 2D is great material for modern HD displays. It's like seeing your imagination come to life. LEGOland feels...real. What's particularly impressive is the way the filmmakers have used mostly computer-generated animation to make a movie that looks photo realistic, giving various plastic pieces perfect textures.
Colors and resolution are gobsmacking. There are so many small details -- individual pieces, background characters, lighting cues. Seriously, in some of the busier sequence, pause the Blu-ray every once in a while. You'll be rewarded with all sorts of creative details you may have missed on your first (few) viewing(s). Black levels are also handsome -- especially Bad Cop / Good Cop's uniforms and Lord Business' office tower. As an animated production, we've come to expect this sort of eye candy. But wow. 'The LEGO Movie' is an absolute HD home run.
'The LEGO Movie' zooms, blasts, explodes, and swirls onto Blu-ray with a terrific 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack.
There's so much to love about this multi-channel sound mix. It's not the most aggressive you've ever heard, and I would have preferred a 7.1 option, but I have zero complaints. The voice actors are perfectly placed in the center and other channels. Surround activity is both subtle in the way it builds out city environments with small details, and also extremely immersive, such as when Vitruvius' voice swirls around the audience during a chase sequence. And LFE fans, you're in for a real treat. Check out the scene where Batman plays his "real music" after talking about the Batmobile's subwoofers. I'd be interested to know what frequencies we're dealing with exactly, but it's thunderous and super low. Great, great track. A top-tier 5.1 release.
'The LEGO Movie' special features mainly consist of HD Exclusives (see below), but a Commentary with Filmmakers and Cast is available on both the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller join cast members Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, and Charlie Day for a fun chat. It takes a few minutes to get going, but it's a fun listen for fans. Overall a nice collections of anecdotes, tons of jokes, and a few silent moments too.
'The LEGO Movie' is fantastic on all levels. It's hilarious, exciting, clever, heartwarming, and pokes fun at modern story conventions. Lord and Miller are a filmmaking team capable of pulling off the impossible. Taking reboots and synergistic consumer tie-ins, and turning them into tightly script stories that work really, really well. A film for moviegoers of all ages.
As a Blu-ray, while my preferred version is the 3D Everything is Awesome Edition, this 2D-only edition includes the same reference quality picture and sound presentations and all of the special features. If you don't like 3D, this is the edition for you and comes with my personal highest recommendation: Must Own.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.