THE LEGO MOVIE (2014, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
The layers of meta are incredibly deep with this one. The ultimate message of the film, delivered in a disappointingly treacly third act, is that it’s amazing to take something someone else made, and do something new with it. It’s like everything already exists, and the only type of art left is to get creative with existing properties. What Lord & Miller are doing with their LEGO MOVIE, then, (and as they kind of did with the somewhat-pretty-funny 21 JUMP STREET) is to take an existing thing and be creative — make it their own using a strong imagination and deft execution skills.
The results are mostly a riot — a steady stream of laugh-out-loud lines, a lot of which are self-deprecating, satirical, or winking at what’s going on. And at times it’s just silly fun, like when Will Ferrell calls nail polish remover “The po-LEESH remover of na-EEL!” (and he calls an Exact-O knife “The Sword of Exact ZERO!”). And when the actors are allowed to riff amusingly without servicing the heavy plot, it’s at its best. Chris Pratt is terrific in a rare lead role, letting his talent for being a naive, innocent everyman become a big asset; Elizabeth Banks finds subtle ways to deliver her exposition with humor; and Will Arnett almost steals the show as a tempestuous, selfish, juvenile jerk of a Batman.
Unfortunately, the third act does get a little moist, and part of the problem with it is Ferrell’s acting — when he’s asked to do something serious, his earnest expressions fail him. Plus, the movie distressingly contains yet another Magical Negro without ever putting a twist on the cliche (which is odd, because it twists so many other conventions) and while Morgan Freeman’s performance is amusing (and has the film’s single biggest laugh for me, though the joke is repeated later on to dampen the effect), the character is still a lame trope. And this may come across as a bit of an overly sensitive complaint, but the story struck me as being kind of sexist — there’s literally no reason the hyper-competent Banks couldn’t have done everything Pratt does. Why can’t she be the hero, rather than just being a sidekick to either Arnett or Pratt? The other instance of sexism I won’t reveal because it’s the final scene in the movie, but together it just kind of stuck out to me. Probably not a big deal but on the heels of the Magical Negro I couldn’t help but start to notice a trend.