The Lego Movie

Movie review time. That’s right, I’m really doing another one. And this time it’s even something released recently: “The Lego Movie”.

Spoilers ahead. You Have Been Warned!

The Lego Movie is a high-speed roller coaster ride through a story we’ve seen a million times. It’s the Hero’s Journey, straight out of the manual. But it’s done with style, charm, and wit. I laughed all the way through, and only later started to have qualms.

I’m not going to talk about the deus ex machina. I’ll just note in passing that I agree with Aristotle that the resolution needs to arise from the story. The writers made an effort to do that, but didn’t succeed. When we found out what was on the other side of the wormhole, I fell out of the roller coaster car and never quite got back in.

TLM is loaded with mixed messages. The biggest is in the ongoing veneration of the Master Builders and their ability to throw away the guide and build what they want. But countering that, note that our hero only makes progress in his quest when he forces those Master Builders to follow the rules and build things exactly in accordance with the guide. I detect a hint of corporate meddling here. Lego makes their money selling sets. There had to be something to counter the primary message, discourage rampant reuse of parts, and encourage purchase of sets. Parenthetically, I count at least a dozen sets based on TLM in the stores.

Then there’s Princess Unikitty (the best character in the movie, IMNSHO). She learns an important lesson: sometimes it’s not just OK but absolutely necessary to show your angry side. Unfortunately, the movie promptly undercuts the message by showing that her anger doesn’t do any good. Her city isn’t even slowed down, and she immediately goes from angry to seasick. It’s not just a one-off failure, though. When she goes all bizniz, she’s glorious again, but that transformation also fails to affect anything.

Poor Wyldestyle. She starts out as a kick-ass female character, a self-confident Master Builder who saves our hero’s life and gives him the necessary ass-kicking to ensure he plays his part in the story. And then what happens? Do we see her working to overcome her hatred of the hero and her desire to be the legendary hero herself? Nope. Instead her boyfriend shows up, and she becomes “The Character Whose Boyfriend Is Batman”. Everything she does from that point on is dominated and defined by her relationship with her boyfriend. Even at the end, when she realizes she loves Emmet, she doesn’t get to dump Batman. He stomps on her speech and graciously hands her over to the schlub. Apparently the message here is that it’s OK for women to be an awesome as long as they defer to their menfolk. Yeah, OK, it’s a young boy’s story, and Batman is going to out-awesome just about anybody. But the writers could have made so much more out of Wyldestyle without detracting from Batty’s dominance.

Bottom line: Leave the kids home to play with their Legos (but hide the instruction books), turn off your mind, and The Lego Movie will be awesome.