It's been 65 years, 560 billion bricks, 83 set themes, 90 retail stores, 53 video games, a clothing line, a theme park, and something called BrickCon since the dawn of the LEGO, and only now are we getting our first big screen incarnation of the omnipresent children's toy. And though you'd think among the various extracurricular incarnations of what started out as a simple amendment of the building block that we'd have seen a Lego movie by now, the right Lego movie wouldn't have come along sooner. Spiting expectations, The Lego Movie doesn't shoot for the gimmick. This isn't capitalization on a familiar property for no discernible reason beyond the frugality of name brand entertainment. We're hit with the surprising realization early on in the movie that this is a story about Legos. About the tacit struggle that plagued all young builders — the war between following the instructions and letting your imagination run wild — and just how much value there is in each.
In fact, The Lego Movie steps well beyond the confines of its 32-square-peg green mat to tell a subtextual story about children who play with, and find themselves through, this incredible toy. Centering on the fantastical quest of a plain-faced everyman named Emmet (Chris Pratt, whose Parks and Rec enthusiasm is not bridled by his plastic form) who is whisked out of his cozy lifestyle by prophecies, secret societies, inter-world missions, and nefarious plans to destroy the entire Lego universe, the film hammers in the simple conceit that being yourself is not only okay, but abundantly important. But a profound sensitivity to its message does not mean that The Lego Movie holds back on the fun. On the contrary, this might be the silliest animated movie to hit theaters in ages.
From scene one, The Lego Movie is maniacal in its comic delivery. Sharp gags from writer/director team Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (responsible for the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films and the 21 Jump Street movie alike) get fair treatment from a capable band of voice actors — Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, and so many others. Liam Neeson as a menacing policeman is the surprise MVP of the bunch, although supporting players Nick Offerman and Charlie Day contribute some memorable laughs. The comedy is fresh, rarely if ever pandering, and in such rapid supply that any failed joke is immediately overshadowed by a real doozy.
In fact, with such clever material at bay, it's the film's insistence on shoving its action sequences to the forefront that have us a bit frustrated. As an adventure movie, and one set in a land where a child's imagination would be the word of god, the inclination is not surprising. But beyond a chuckle or two at the initial gambit, there's not much favor to be found in the movie's long supply of large shoot-'em-ups and grappling scenes.
But soon enough, we get back to the jokes, the message, the characters. Although second banana Wildstyle (Banks, playing a hyper-competent secret agent whose primary goal is to get Emmet to the finish line) is a disappointing turn for what is otherwise an intelligent, progressive movie, the film's heart is where it really wins. The throughline message of channeling the creative machinations that make you you only builds as the film plucks onward, offering surprising turns that help to really strike a chord with any youngster battling a fear of individuality, or any adult who ever has.
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As deeply as Toy Story understands what dolls can do for a lonely young kid, The Lego Movie knows what it means to create whole worlds, the people within them, and the adventures they take. While the movie doesn't discount the merit in learning and deriving inspiration from "the instructions" (oh yes, it's quite indubitably a metaphor), it knows that the far more valuable path comes from our own minds and hearts, and asks viewers young and old to realize that the best things you can give this world come wholly from you.
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Steve Carrell will produce and star in A Boyfriend for My Wife, a remake of the Argentine romantic comedy Un Novio Para Mi Mujer, which Carrell's Carousel Productions is developing as a starring vehicle. In Juan Taratuto's original film - the highest grossing homegrown movie of 2008 in Argentina - a "timid husband believes the only way out of his stifling marriage is to get his wife to fall in love with another man, so he enlists the help of a legendary yet unlikely Lothario" to do the job. Hopefully Warner Bros will take the time to expand its casting search for the role beyond Russell Brand, but somehow I doubt it.
Carrell will produce the remake with Christine Peters (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and Michael Cerenzie (Deuces Wild) along with Grace Ledding, and Charlie Hartsock and Vance DeGeneres exec producing.
Curiously, Warner Bros has tapped the writing team behind Disney's 2002 Cuba Gooding Jr. abomination Snow Dogs and the 2006 Madagascar-ripoff The Wild, Mark Gibson and Phil Halprin, to pen the script. That's a shame, because A Boyfriend for My Wife, while not shockingly original, sounds full of comedic possibilities for Carrell. If only Warner Bros had the same working relationship with Judd Apatow that Universal does, this could be another 40-Year-Old Virgin type hit for the Office star.
Like Madagascar the story starts at the New York Zoo. Samson (Kiefer Sutherland) the lion is once again the star of the show but unlike Madagascar’s Alex Samson claims he came from the wild. He regales the other odd assortment of zoo denizens--including a talkative giraffe (Janeane Garofalo) a lisping anaconda (Richard Kind) a snarky Koala (Eddie Izzard) and a take-charge squirrel (Jim Belushi)--with tales of danger and excitement abroad. Of course Samson can’t tell the real truth that he was actually born in captivity and is making it all up because everyone including his rebellious teenage son Ryan (Greg Cipes) would think less of him. But when Ryan runs away thinking he can’t live up to his dad’s reputation and is mistakenly shipped off to the wild Samson has keep up the charade as the gang embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue him. The lion does come clean at some point in case you were wondering. Another vocal roster of big names another dollar. This time around we’ve got Sutherland Garofalo Belushi all doing the animal thing. There’s also William Shatner as a villainous wildebeest headed for the loony bin after deciding he’s tired of being the prey and turns predator. He’s even got his herd of wildebeest dancing a Busby Berkeley number around a volcano á la Lion King. Sigh. Luckily there is one saving grace--sort of: Izzard as the wisecracking Koala bear Nigel who gets mistaken for a god by the wildebeest and milks it for all its worth which isn’t a whole lot. Still if anyone has seen the British comedian’s hilarious HBO special Eddie Izzard: Dressed to Kill you can just imagine him strutting around as a Koala dressed in women’s clothing and doing his shtick. The Mouse House once again proves it doesn’t have an inventive bone in its body--or even the gumption to realize that had something with potential. Apparently the pitch from writers Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin had been mulling around Disney for about nine years before it got made giving the likes of Nemo and Madagascar a head start (I’d be peeved if I were those writers). But even if The Wild did come first it still wouldn’t be able to measure up mostly because the story is insipid. Wildebeest turning into predators? What’s THAT all about? The CGI-animation is spot on of course but we are definitely taking all of that for granted these days. No now what we want is a good compelling story. If not that then at least we should have a couple of really funny characters--like commando penguins or a fish with short-term memory--to help things move along. The Wild doesn’t have either so while children may be left mildly entertained for an hour and a half parents will be left twiddling their thumbs waiting for it to be over.