Second Opinion: The Lego Movie - DVD Review

Essentially staffed by two blokes who like film, Film Intel writers Sam and Ben sometimes agree. And then, sometimes they don't. Second Opinion is what happens when they don't. Well... that and lots of shouting.
From Sam's original The Lego Movie review: 'Don't be fooled into thinking that this is anything other than a mega-budget, feature length advert'. Two Stars.

'Animated movies have for a long time been a source of additional profit... maybe The Lego Movie is actually the most honest film regarding this undeniable fact to emerge for some time'.

Arguably trumping any other franchise for shameless product placement rights, to go into The Lego Movie expecting anything but ninety-odd minutes of Lego in all its various guises would be na├»ve, if not downright stubborn. It's something that Sam clearly couldn't get past, let alone see where the stream of five star reviews and "film of the year" plaudits for The Lego Movie were coming from.

True, you are watching a story played out by toys which, should you wish, you could very easily buy straight after watching Phil Lord and Chris Miller's film. But surely that has been the case with animated films for some time now? Think back to Toy Story, released nearly twenty years ago. Wasn't the motivation of at least some of the people behind Pixar's first full length feature that it would be the easiest Disney film yet out of which to make heaps of money through selling merchandise? Buzz Lightyear famously became the biggest selling toy of 1995, and the real life playthings featured alongside Buzz, Woody and the rest (Mr. Potato Head, Etch-A-Sketch) no doubt saw a considerable boost in sales. Animated movies - and arguably mainstream movies in general - have for a long time been a source of additional profit for those making them outside of just ticket and home media sales; maybe The Lego Movie is actually the most honest film regarding this undeniable fact to emerge for some time.

Look beyond the toy promotion, and there's also a fair amount of worth to appreciate within Lord and Miller's film. The story takes knowing influence from a range of cinematic franchises including Terminator, Indiana Jones and, most clearly, The Matrix, and each is used to entertaining effect. The appearances from Lego versions of recognisable figures - most prominently Batman (Will Arnett), but also several other DC characters, as well as other cameos from history and fiction - for the most part work well and play into the madcap narrative rather than taking over or being used in place of a plot. Lord and Miller's sense of humour, now becoming something of a calling card for the directorial writing and directing duo, is regularly apparent and keeps things zanily fun for the majority of the running time.

What keeps The Lego Movie from reaching the heights of the pair's previous animated success Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, let alone coming anywhere near the likes of Pixar's output or even the best efforts of hit-and-miss studio Dreamworks, is substance. The Lego Movie is great expendable fun, but never anything more. The film's animated style is certainly individual (some of the scenes within Bricksburg are genuinely impressive) but is limited by the simplicity of the Lego medium. The story is engaging enough but largely predictable, whilst an aesthetic twist in the final act is pleasingly fresh but ultimately underutilised.

Most characters fall somewhere between throwaway jokes and humorous caricatures. The central pair of Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) get a handful of scenes that are clearly there in an attempt to flesh them out a bit more, but ultimately add very little. The rest of the characters are largely as memorable as their voice actors make them, with Arnett's Batman and Liam Neeson's Good Cop/Bad Cop leading the way, closely followed by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill riffing on their 21 Jump Street partnership pleasingly as Superman and Green Lantern respectively. Other big names, however, are less impressive: Will Ferrell's President Business essentially has the actor rolling out his Zoolander Mugatu schtick for the umpteenth time, and Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius is disappointingly here for his pay cheque and nothing else.

The reason that Toy Story has far outlived its easy marketing credentials, now regularly hailed as one of the greatest animated films ever made nearly two decades after its release, is the heart and soul exuded by it and the depth and emotion demonstrated by the characters and story within it. Whilst The Lego Movie has captured the commercial zeitgeist of 2014 superbly - tapping into both Lego's popularity with youngsters and retro-cool for those who grew up with it at exactly the right time - whilst offering ninety minutes of animated fun, it's hard to imagine it will be held in the same high regard as Pixar's finest films in the years to come.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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