Thoughts on The Lego Movie

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'll tell you now, this review is long and has spoilers, but I really want to get into why this movie struck home for me. And why you should watch it, even if you don't have any kids.

It's been 5 days, but I'm still thinking about The Lego Movie. It hadn't even been my first or second choice for Valentine's Day. But since date night night turning into family night due to sick auntie meant we didn't want to see our first choice of The Monuments Men, and then Frozen no longer being available in the evening except as the Sing-a-long version, that left The Lego Movie.

I thought, it's probably going to be totally cheesy like Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, but oh well. It's at least something our son can watch with us. Even as the movie started, it had all the signs of a silly adventure movie: Lego archvillain trying to make the world behave his way, prophesy-speaking wizard warning that one day The Special would come to stop his plans, followed by lots of Lego people all singing "EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU'RE PART OF A TEAM!" Yeah, I meant that to be all caps. (They were rather enthusiastic about it.)

And through the song, we meet this ordinary Lego construction guy named Emmet. All he wants to do is follow the rules and fit in with everyone else. He prides himself in being part of the team and building buildings everyday according to the directions. If we were to label him, we'd probably call him a follower. Certainly we'd never think of him as a leader. Nothing stands out about him. Even his coworkers later on describe him as without anything special, nothing to make him distinctive from everyone else. They could hardly remember anything about him at all, as though he was so ordinary that he wasn't worth getting to know. Excuse me, I need a tissue. *bwaaat*

Right, so anyway Emmet finishes at the construction site at the end of the day, rebuffed but unfazed by his attempt to be part of the group after work, he spots this oddly dressed young woman hanging around, looking for something, rather athletically actually. Lots of jumps to different parts of half built section. He warns her that she's not supposed to be there; it's against the rules. In trying to find out why she's there, he ends up falling down a very long (and crooked) shaft in typical Lego style: bounce, pong, ping, crunch, bounce some more, bang, bop, flop. Very silly.

But then he finds the thing of prophesy (not that he knew it at the time), the item that will stop President Business from gluing the world together forever with the Kragle. (The thing gets stuck to his back while he's having a high speed vision of sorts.) And in so doing, all of a sudden he's now The Special of prophesy: a felon in the eyes of the law and the long waited for extra special Master Builder by the other rebels. But he has no idea what to do or how to do it. He'd never even heard of the prophesy until Wildstyle, the girl he'd seen before he fell, tells him about it. The only thing he's ever constructed was a bunk bed style sofa so "everyone can hang out and watch tv together." And Every. Single. Person. who brings up the sofa treats it like a worthless idea.

When the other rebels find out he's no Master Builder and just an ordinary guy who happens to have this thing stuck on his back, they think the prophesy has failed. They dismiss him. But it turns out, his specialness is knowing how to work as a team. The other Master Builders such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, and all the others don't know how to build according to the rules or do anything cohesively together. And that is their weakness.

Despite everyone telling him he's a nobody, and even half believing it himself, he takes a more active role because nobody else can do what he can do. He's the one who comes up with the plan to get into the tower to deactivate the Kragle and save all the Lego worlds. He's the one who knows how to blend in so they can carry it out. And when everything looks bleakest,  he takes a plunge that frees all the captive Master Builders, though he's sacrificing himself to do it. He even tells Lucy (Wildstyle's real name), that she needs to be the hero now.

And here is where the story takes a deeper turn. We're almost to the climax, yet, this is the part when you will most want those tissues. I have allergies, so I had some on me, thankfully, but the rest of you, this is your warning to get some now.

Emmet falls from the tower, but into a sort of vortex which leads out into the real world. There we find out the story is both Emmet's world and that of a boy playing with the Legos. He had made his dad, the real owner of the Legos and the one who'd constructed all the sets in the first place, into President Business. His dad had apparently forbidden him from playing with them 'because he was messing things up.' His dad comes down and catches the boy and, seeing the carnage of the rebellion in full force, yells at him. "These are mine." But the box says ages 8-14, replies the boy. They are toys. Not the way I'm using them, answers the dad angrily. (Will Ferrell does a great job in the role.)

The dad then starts using Krazy Glue, aka the Kragle, to glue the pieces together so they can not come apart again. In Lego World Wildstyle/Lucy is leading all the ordinary people in full revolt, but all over the place people and things are snatched up by the President's robots and glued in place. It looks hopeless, the boy unable to convince his dad that creativity is more than following directions, that creativity is a good thing. In Lego world Emmet is facing off with the villain in front of the Kragle and holding the cap to the Krazy Glue.

The boy is standing there in real world time so sad and seeing the fun sucked away. But then the dad finds President Business in the tower and realizes it's himself and he's been cast as the villain, a total reality check as a parent that maybe he's been doing something wrong in his response to his son. His whole demeanor softens in true Will Ferrell fashion. You can see in his face the revelation that has struck him. He kneels and holds out Emmet and President Business to his son. In a much gentler voice, he asks what Emmet would say to President Business.

Straight from the heart comes the answer, that anyone can be The Special, to be the hero. Back near the beginning when Emmet had been his prisoner right after finding the Thing, President Business had been sneering at him for being ordinary. "Nobody ever told ME that I was special. What makes you so special?" So, this response is both Emmet and the boy to the President and the father. (I warned you about needing the tissues.) In Lego World, Emmet holds out the cap to President Business who takes it, completely disarmed in that moment, and puts on the cap himself, becoming the hero and thus saving Lego World from the Kragle. In real world the father and son hug and start using a solvent to remove the Krazy Glue from the pieces. Just a moment, I'm getting teary again remembering it. *sniff* Okay, I'm good.

Not only has there been this fabulous theme about what it means to be special, but the real world part really drives home about the value of creativity and exploring new possibilities. The rules and directions should be a springboard, not a prison. Watching this movie, I felt it both as the boy and the father, because I see myself in both. It's easy to say this is the way things should be done, but we also need to listen to the part of us that says there might be another way.

And gosh darn it, I love the whole thing about ordinary being so incredibly awesome. We don't have to be amazingly talented to bring out our awesomeness. Everyone can be awesome. You, me, the kid down the street, the woman in the supermarket, the man walking the dog, everyone. And it's even better when we bring our various awesomenesses together as a team. So go watch the movie if you haven't yet and join me in one more cheer. With fists in the air, sing it to the sky.