Building blocks

For adults of a certain age- okay, probably a lot of ages, if we’re being honest- it’s easy to get nostalgic about Lego, the blocks that so many of us played with growing up. My brother and I were among those kids. I recall having a box just full of different blocks, and the hours spent building all sorts of fun things with them. I also remember getting sets and the fun I’d have building from instructions, and the one huge pirate ship that I wanted that was somehow $120- nope, Mom and Dad weren’t springing for THAT.

I walked through a Lego store several months back, and was struck by how much MORE there seemed to be now. It wasn’t a section in a toy store as I remembered, it was its own entity. They had Bulk Barn-esque bins for different kinds of a blocks, and different sections with an amazing amount of sets to build. And, yes, some were even more expensive than the mythical pirate ship that I remembered.

Between the store, and the continued evolution and tie-in of the sets and video games, it’s been interesting to see the presence of Lego again now in different things that I consume. While I don’t have the sets to build any more, I’ve played several of the Lego video games. They all follow a simple formula: take an established franchise, and make it fun, destructive, and easy to play. Batman, Lord of the Rings, the Avengers, and Harry Potter are just a few of the franchises who have been Lego-ized for video game (and probably building set) form.

But I was skeptical of the Lego Movie. This was different from the games, or the complicated sets in the store: they weren’t grabbing another franchise to use for their story (although they actually DID for parts of it, but no spoilers!). They would have to- pardon the pun- build their own. Would it work?

As someone who loved Lego growing up, I’m pleased to report that yes, it absolutely does. If you have a pulse, you can probably find something to enjoy in this movie.

There were a lot of kids in the theatre with my brother and I when we went to watch. That didn’t help my skepticism coming in, but the movie seemed to be universally getting great reviews, and people I knew who’d seen it were really recommending it. Even at work on Friday before seeing the movie with Dennis, I overheard a customer talking about it with a co-worker, as if confirming my decision to go.

“We’re going to see the Lego Movie this weekend.”

“Oh, I want to see that.”

“We’re actually seeing it again . It was great!”

“I’ve heard it’s so much fun.”

“Oh, it was amazing.”

In retrospect, the fact that they didn’t have a franchise or a story to build on made it easier for the Lego Movie: they could just make their own, much as many of us did with the blocks when we were younger. It started out fun and playful, and continued that way the whole time, rarely letting a light story get in the way of a well-earned laugh. And while it was a very kid friendly movie, there were a lot of references that people of my generation would appreciate, as has been traditional for animated movies for quite some time. The animation is delightful, and fits with what we know about Lego: they make Lego water WORK.

The story isn’t anything original, but the climax and resolution hit just the right notes, and is probably more aimed at adults than kids, which I found quite surprising. But it works. It all works. And the range of characters was surprising, and delightful as animated movies often do: Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Will Ferrell, and Morgan Freeman, all completely in their elements, and giving us fun surprises that we don’t often see from them. I’d love to tell you about them- or share them with fellow moviegoers- but I’m sticking with the no spoilers policy here.

I mentioned really enjoying it on Facebook yesterday, and one friend of mine captured it well: “I did not spend more than a split second of the movie without a smile on my face, and said smile continued for quite some time afterwards. It was so much fun – and dare I say awesome..” Fun is the word. Fun was the objective. While it had a story, it was designed to make you smile, whether with knowing cultural references, winks to franchises and pop culture both current and past, or things about Lego that you already know and love.

I’ve become a bit of a cynic about new movies: there’s a lot of tie-ins, remakes, and obvious attempts to cash in on my childhood and what I enjoyed growing up. I’ve been surprised sometimes: the new Star Treks have been great, for example. And I’ve been proven right: the new Spider Man, while a fine movie on its own, was completely unnecessary with the recent iterations so fresh in our minds (and yes, served the sole purpose of allowing Sony to keep the rights and build new sequels).

I don’t want to build the Lego Movie up to an impossible height, but it’s easily the best movie I’ve seen in theatres in a while, and I’m already trying to find an excuse to go again (probably with the lady). It entertained me, and showed me something new and compelling, which is really all I ask for when I spring for a movie ticket. If you have a pulse, or spent sometime with those building blocks growing up, I think you’ll like it too.

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