Film Review: The Lego Movie

This film review was published in The Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st April 2014.

Everything is indeed awesome in The Lego Movie, a surprise package that will delight young audiences and the young at heart. Originally mooted as one of a slew of toy based flicks, including the flop Battleship and the abandoned Monopoly, it was anticipated that a film based on Danish construction bricks would be all concept and no fun for anyone over ten, however, I had a great time and was pleased to be swept away in a fun storyline with a bunch of well written and memorable plastic characters.

I have a mate who is an adult Lego collector. Once his pricey kits are constructed and displayed, that’s how they will stay forever. Strangely, that’s exactly what The Lego Movie plot rallies against with our hero Emmett (Chris Pratt), an ordinary Lego mini-figure, drawn into a rebellion opposing the controlling Lord Business (Will Ferrell). With his new allies, the Master Builders (those with the power to create anything out of Lego bricks without instructions), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and an ultra serious Batman (Will Arnett), Emmett struggles with the notion of being “special” on an adventure which spans the Lego universe.

There’s a local connection to The Lego Movie. Australian studio Animal Logic are responsible for the animation. I found the stop motion style of animation jarring for the first thirty seconds of the film, but my brain adapted quickly and was soon revelling in the delightful visual style of a world completely composed of plastic bricks.

The appeal of the film for me lies in the humour of the screenplay by the screenwriting / directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and the all-star voice cast. How can you top a supporting cast of characters voiced by Liam Neeson, Cobie Smothers, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill? There’re plenty of cameos too, including one which was particularly close to my heart. I won’t spoil it for you (think Kessel Run).

The gags fly thick and fast, and I’m certain that the flick warrants another sitting to catch all the laughs. There are jokes to appeal to all ages as well as a decent helping of sight gags and slapstick that will be universally appreciated.

My only minor gripe is a slightly saccharine ending that tarnished my overall immersion into the Lego universe. However, the momentum of the fantastic fun to be had gets The Lego Movie over the finish line and will have you salivating for the inevitable (and already greenlit) sequel.

Just a word of warning that the bubblegum pop theme tune is as catchy as it is irritating. It is impossible to leave the cinema without having “Everything is Awesome” stuck in your head for days.

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Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 23:11  Leave a Comment  
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Lego of Me: Canberra Brick Expo 2013

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th August 2013.

As a kid during the eighties, I’d look forward to the school holidays because that meant that it might be time for the Lego World Show. Once a year or so, a Grace Bros. store in Sydney would host a travelling themed display, all made from Lego bricks. I was in kid heaven exploring the larger than life creations. One year the theme was dinosaurs, the next ships of the sea, followed by the circus and then space exploration. Of course, each show would ultimately spill out into the Lego part of the toy section. I’m pretty sure a great deal of my childhood big bag of bricks was obtained via pleading and begging at the exit of the Lego World Shows.

Earlier this year, I inadvertently wandered into the Lego store in New York City with my travelling companion to discover that he was a Lego fanatic. I walked out with a few photographs and a cheap souvenir or two. Jeff carried out a couple of hundred dollars worth of playsets. And you think that you know somebody.

Fast forward a few months and Jeff has invited me to visit Brick Expo 2013 in Canberra. Held every year since 2010, the expo is a not for profit event run by the Canberra Lego Users Group, a collective of adults and children that love, well, Lego. Last year, the event raised over $40,000 to purchase much needed equipment (not made out of Lego) for the paediatric ward at the Canberra Hospital.

The first expo attracted 4,000 people. This year, the Brick Expo was the hottest ticket in town, with the event’s 12,000 tickets completely sold out. Take that Pink! Not bad for an organisation that started out a few years ago with 4 members and now boasts a membership of 70. That’s more than the Democrats.

Wandering around the expo, I was amazed to see the wide variety of styles and themes that keep the Lego nerds of Canberra off the streets: Star Wars, Batman, trains, pirates, Star Wars, cars and ships. Did I mention Star Wars?

Obviously there were plenty of displays made from official Lego kits and playsets but I was most impressed by the original creations. Apparently, it is possible to purchase bricks of almost any colour and size directly from Lego in Denmark. It works out to about 13c per brick. My favourites were a full size playable Lego guitar and a huge framed Superman picture. My respect also goes to the guy making a life size Tardis out of bricks. Blue Lego may be a little hard to come by until he finishes it.

Brick Expo is so popular that you only get a 90 minute window to explore before your session ends and you are sent on your way. Despite the incredibly complex displays on show, it was heartwarming to see kids happily sitting around and building their own creations. It reminded me of my childhood where I would spend hours building stuff, demolishing it, building again, and then sticking pieces up my nose.

Although I’m not convinced that adult Lego fandom is for me, I have a new respect for the little Danish plastic bricks and their devotees. Now please exit through the gift shop.