The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie (2014) is an animated film from Warner Bros. Pictures, directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. It follows the story of an ordinary construction worker Emmett (Chris Pratt) who is thrust with the responsibility of saving the various Lego worlds from evil President Business (Will Ferrell).

The film is a testament to the evolution of the Lego legacy and where it stands now. Historically, Lego started off as a simple building block for mostly boys. Over the years, Lego has had to adapt its attitude about the various sub-groups that wanted to use Legos, primarily girls, as well as imaginative minds who wanted to go beyond the instructions and build other types sets and structures. That was a major conflict between the consumers and the company over the years, and that very conflict is a huge component in the film, illustrated by the live-action scene with the father/Big Man Upstairs (Ferrell), who is resistant to change, and his son (Jaden Sand), who has endless ideas on how to use the grandiose Lego city his father has built in his basement. Similarly, the master builders also fight the good fight by building vehicles and structures without any rules, much to the chagrin of President Business and Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neesom). As evidenced by the increasing creativity with Legos, including Lego retail stores, Lego video games, and now The Lego Movie, the company has firmly planted its feet in the innovative camp, willing to break down the rigid walls it originally built up, and, with open arms, welcoming a broad yet enthusiastic consumer base.

The film boasts an ingenuity and sense of humor just as sharp and forward-thinking as the present day image of the Lego company. The film’s time is quite serious amidst cascading jokes. The movie starts off making fun of the fascist utopian idea, brandishing a wickedly catchy parody song “Everything is Awesome!!” and a step-by-step rule book for how to live a happy (yet identical) life. They poke fun at the Lego civilization as they mispronounce the various “artifacts” that humans use on a daily basis, like Krazy Glue (Kragle) and X-Acto knives (the sword of Exact 0). The film’s sense of humor is a celebration of the fun and accessible works that Lego has assumed. When the master builders see Legos with corresponding part numbers, those are actual parts to actual Legos. With the exception of very unique character parts, all the Legos seen in the film are actual Legos consumers can buy and use. Even flowing water, roaring fire, and laser beams are created with Legos, to demonstrate a universe created entirely by Lego pieces. It’s a Lego fanatic’s dream, yet an experience that everyone can appreciate.

Along with the fantastic visuals and the fresh humor, the casting and voice-acting is perfect. Pratt brings some of his Parks and Recreation character’s vapid delivery to the ordinary Emmett, but adds layers of depth as the character breaks through the mundane. Elizabeth Banks plays the mysterious and formidable Wyldstyle/Lucy, who helps guide Emmett to be all that he can be. Morgan Freeman appears for the first time in an animated film, as a wizened Vitruvius, the prophet who predicts the coming of “The Special”. Will Arnett’s portrayal of Batman received so much praise that a spin-off film for Lego Batman will come to theatres in 2017, one year before the sequel to The Lego Movie releases in 2018.

The Lego Movie is a perfect storm of innovation, talent, finesse, and heart. The film has two important messages, the first learned by Enmett: you are not special merely because someone said so, you are special because of you. The second lesson is learned by the father/The Big Man Upstairs: it’s far more important to bond and connect with your son than stifle the relationship with a pristine toy model. Though, that second lesson may backfire for the son as his father says that if he gets to play with the Legos, his little sister gets to play, too — leading to some characters that may come up in the sequel.

The Lego Movie swept the nation with a sharp sense of humor, star-studded cast, and impressive visuals. They’ve set the bar very high; hopefully they can match those standards with the sequels.

Our Idiot Brother

On the eve of Chiberia, my roommate and I ordered in some Chinese food and cozied in with a movie night. We keep making the “mistake” of browsing Netflix’s “Comedy” category for a light-hearted comedy. I say mistake only because we keep finding movies that are actually “dramedies”, with an unexpectedly poignant message that we are not mentally prepared for. We scrolled through some titles and picked Our Idiot Brother. It wasn’t a “mistake” to watch it — since it was a nice movie — but it wasn’t what we were looking for.

Our Idiot Brother (2011), directed by Jesse Peretz, is about Ned (Paul Rudd), an unaware but kind and sweet man, who befalls adversity, both in his life and the lives of his sisters. He means no ill will on anybody, but he lacks common sense and foresight to understand the consequences of his action. Basically, this film is is about the bond between Ned and his sisters and how it grows stronger throughout the movie. Even more simply, it’s the story about how Ned is reunited with his dog. At its most simple, it’s the story of how Ned finds love — the most weak part of the film. After defining complex relationships between Ned and his siblings, his siblings and their partners, the conclusion of the film seems too cliché and too unimaginative. The rest of the film was clever and interesting, and this ending is a bad aftertaste after an intriguing meal.

Paul Rudd plays Ned very well, exuding charm and charisma. He’s charming in every way, including his foolish antics. He ends up “ruining” the lives of all three of his sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Liz (Emily Mortimer), and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel). His honesty unravels Liz’s marriage, stifles Miranda’s article at work, and destroys Natalie’s partnership with Cindy (Rashida Jones). The three sisters ultimately gang up on Ned and his idiocy, but the beauty of this film is that they all have made bad decisions that have led to the rocky points in their relationships. It was merely Ned’s light push that brought all their insecurities and secrets to light. Through these complex relationships, the film cleverly shines the “foolish” light on the three sisters — who are normal members of society, seemingly put-together, with common sense and good judgement — through Ned’s exaggerated stupidity. 

Even with a small budget, this film excels, particularly in make-up and costume design. This film manages to make beautiful women like Rashida Jones and Emily Mortimer very plain and even unattractive. Playing down attractiveness is a huge plus in this film; it makes it feel more real. It’s more relatable. It also works on Paul Rudd, with that long, flowing hair.

Even though it wasn’t what we were looking for, Our Idiot Brother entertained us. The cast is incredible, also featuring Adam Scott. For an independent film, the ending seems a little too passive and flat. It’s what you expect from a big-budget rom-com. One can say that it’s fitting with Ned’s character, as he’s an idealist — and something I appreciate as a hopeless romantic — but it casts too much attention on itself compared to the tone of the rest of the film. While it may have been a “mistake”, it was a happy accident to stumble on to Our Idiot Brother