There was a collective “ugh” that hit the Internet the day “The Lego Movie” was announced as something that was actually going to happen. It was the type of “ugh” that seems only reserved for the filmography of Adam Sandler and movies based on maritime warfare board games. On the surface, this reaction is understandable. There are a lot of dumb movies and, without context, the idea of an entire movie based on Lego just seems dumb.
Now, I had the opposite reaction, only because it’s my job to be fully aware that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were set to direct the film –- two men who eschew “dumb” and have everything to lose by making a terrible movie at this white-hot, still-early stage of their careers. My expectations were actually unreasonably high for “The Lego Movie,” which looks ridiculous as I write out this sentence. Regardless, this was my mindset before I saw “The Lego Movie.”
“The Lego Movie” exceeded my expectations in every way and it is unbelievably clever.
(Honestly, it’s probably too clever for children: everything just comes so fast, it was hard for me to even keep up with all that’s going on, and I’m someone who understands all of the references. For a child, it’s probably the equivalent of dumping a silo of Skittles over his or her head. In other words: he or she will like it a lot.)
Again, I’m not surprised that Lord and Miller made a good movie. Gosh, I remember dreading the day, late August of 2009, when I had to see what looked like another throwaway kids movie, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” Instead, Lord and Miller built this fascinating world based off a book that’s only 30 pages long (I own the book and just counted) and that mostly consists of pictures. Their follow-up wasn’t quite an “ugh” movie when it was announced, but people were scratching their heads at the idea of an updated version of “21 Jump Street.” Now, people can’t wait to see this summer’s sequel (also directed by Lord and Miller). And it’s no surprise that a sequel to “The Lego Movie” has already been green-lit with Lord and Miller again at the helm.
Look, for anyone that follows me on Twitter, you probably know that I like Lego. The thing is, I wasn’t a huge Lego person as a child. A few months ago, as a lark, my girlfriend and I bought a Lego set and built it at a local Upper East Side bar while drinking cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon (I know, I know). It was fun! But, now I’ve become addicted. (I just spent every moment of my free time over the last few days building a Millennium Falcon. I might need an intervention. Yes, this is a call for help. Help.)
It took two days, but the Lego Millennium Falcon is complete. Which means my life is now complete. pic.twitter.com/npuCvVtiqU
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) February 4, 2014
But, having said that, I certainly had no interest in watching a bad movie about Lego.
The most interesting and unexpected aspect of “The Lego Movie” is the ability to crossover between very popular fictional worlds. The story focuses on a non-descript construction-worker Lego named Emmet (Chris Pratt), who finds himself on a mission to save the world from the evil President Business (Will Ferrell). Along the way, Emmet encounters a slew of characters famous in the cultural zeitgeist –- which is unbelievably fun to watch.
We live in a world in which we will never see Iron Man (the rights owned by Disney) and Wolverine (Fox) in the same movie. We will never see Spider-Man (Sony) team up with The Fantastic Four (Fox) as he does so often in the comic books. I’ve been playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes on Playstation just because it’s so fun to see all of these characters in the same screen together.
Okay, so, there are no Marvel heroes in “The Lego Movie,” (this is a Warner Bros. movie and theatrical rights are still theatrical rights, unfortunately) but everything else seems to be fair game. Hey, look, it’s Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders) and Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) all on the screen together. In a theatrical movie! (Sorry, Green Lantern fans, this appearance will not make you feel better about the bad 2010 movie -- he’s portrayed as a doofus in “The Lego Movie.”) This is a movie where Gandalf and Dumbledore and Shaquille O’Neil all interact. This is a movie where a giant movie franchise, not owned by Warner Bros., is represented. I really want to mention what movie franchise to make my point, but I won’t, as not to spoil the surprise.
In “The Lego Movie,” it feels like anyone could show up at any time. (And a lot of them do.)
One caveat: There’s a song in the movie played for irony called “Everything is AWESOME!!!” It’s meant as a statement on the way Emmet and those like him live their lives –- accepting the most banal, trivial piece of popular culture as the greatest thing that they’ve ever heard. Okay, so … “Everything is AWESOME!!!” is unbelievably addicting. I saw this movie over a week ago and it’s still stuck in my head. (And YOU can listen to it right now, if you dare.)
Regardless, at this point, if Phil Lord and Chris Miller decided to make “Poop: The Movie,” or, heck, even a Lego-ized version of “That’s My Boy,” I think we can just save all of the collective “Ughs.”
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.