I never imaged I would type this sentence: The Lego Movie was great, but is it getting too much acclaim?
Over the summer I praised Edgar Wright for having an unblemished cinematic track record. I made this statement regarding only his feature films because I haven’t taken the deep dive into his British television work. The directors of The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, have an unblemished record from behind the camera including their early television work. Their first project was Clone High. While largely ignored by viewers, it was a cult hit and I was an indoctrinated member of the cult. The parody of high school dramas was anchored by great comedic characters and introduced the world to Will Forte. Most of my first year of college was spent watching or quoting the 13 Clone High episodes (now available on YouTube!)
Their next directing project wasn’t until six years later when they brought back their bizarre humor with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The success of this film appears to have jumpstarted the pair’s directing projects as they directed 21 Jump Street and the pilot for Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the following years. Both projects were hilarious and are stamped with their personal touches. The Lego Movie, features a protagonist (Emmet) with the same type of earnest humor found in Lord and Miller’s earlier works (especially similar to Abe Lincoln and Flint). These protagonists have created a great basis for comedy and adventure.
The Lego Movie has a lot going for it. It benefits from amazing Lego-based animation, inside jokes for fans of the toys, and of course BATMAN! The opening five minutes of the film was awe inspiring and hilarious. And throughout the film, the voice acting was fantastic and the comedy was effective. BUT…
Has the praise gone too far? Some reviewers are literally questioning if this is “the greatest film ever in the history of cinema?” Similar to Edgar Wright films, The Lego Movie has small details within each frame that are impossible to notice on a first viewing. While I love nuanced films, Lord and Miller might have gone too far. They packed the film so full of frenetic action that I became weary of the flashes of colored blocks by the end of the film. Lord and Miller have never had a problem pacing a story before, so I’m guessing that the Lego-based animation sped everything up, bombarding my feeble mind.
The high praise heaped on the film from many reviewers has unfairly prompted me to compare The Lego Movie to some of the best Pixar films, such as The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Up, etc. The emotional core of The Lego Movie is not close to reaching the emotion and insight provided by the upper-tier of Pixar films. But there is definitely a soul to this film. It has effective messages of individualism and creativity. Considering that the movie is based on a on a major toy brand, the widespread approval is a testament to the film’s heart. Critics would have denounced the film if it became too heartless or too based in commercialism.
While The Lego Movie is a step below the Pixar films or Edgar Wright’s films, it is still very enjoyable. I can’t wait to see Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s next project, as I anticipate great things from the comedic directors. And maybe for that next project they can reach into their Clone High roots and bring back young Gandhi.