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Lego Movie, The (2014)

Phil Lord and Chris Miller have had a pretty phenomenal few years. Able to switch with ease between animation and live-action, they've had quite the knack for turning films that sound like a terrible idea on paper into an end result audiences fall in love with. So when the duo signed on to make a film based on everybody's favourite Danish building-blocks, those in the know knew it was in safe hands.

It's an inspired set-up, where the different themes of Lego- City, Pirate, Castle et al- exist as parallel realms. It follows generic mini-fig construction worker Emmet as he discovers that he may be "The special", a prophesied chosen one destined to change the world. When the dastardly Lord Business plots to end existence as they know it, Emmet joins a rag-tag group of figures on a quest to stop him.

It's easy to imagine a scenario in which the suits at Lego could maintain an iron grip on the movie's content, squeezing any creativity out of it. There's no sign of that here though, and Lord and Miller seem to have been allowed free reign, with their imaginations let loose in Lego's toybox. It's also pretty bold to put a subversive anti-corporate message in what is essentially a multi-million dollar toy commercial.

Making full use of Lego's many licenses that means appearances from Lego-ised characters from Star Wars, DC comics, Harry Potter and many other major franchises. It's an absolute hoot for movie geeks of any description, because after all where else will you get to see Gandalf share the screen with Dumbledore? It'll also be remembered as the first big screen outing for Wonder Woman- even if it is only in mini-fig form.

The animation, courtesy of Australian studio Animal Logic is an absolute triumph. With a slightly jerky movement they've managed to make CGI look like it's produced using actual Lego stop-motion. There may be part of us that will always slightly regret that the film wasn't actually made that way, but it's understandable from a technical point of view. A wonderful touch is the way that everything in the Lego world, even fire and smoke, is made to look like it's built out of the titular toy. The closing credits, on the other hand are produced in true stop-motion- which is a nice tip of the hat to traditional animation.

The Lego Movie has an unmistakably anarchic charm. The film moves at quite some speed, and the jokes fly thick and fast. It's full of tiny background details and Easter-eggs that reward repeat viewing. The film throws jokes at such a rate that if any don't hit it barely matters, because they'll be another six or so along in a minute. Inevitably this style isn't going to work for everyone, and there will be those for who watching the film will feel like having Lego bricks thrown at their head non-stop for 100 minutes by an over-excited six-year old.

For the rest of us though, the humour is Lego Movie's biggest success. Lord and Miller's films are generally above all, extremely funny and that's as true as ever here. Best of all is Will Arnett's Lego Batman, bringing to screen the most purely entertaining version of the Dark Knight since the sixties TV series. It's little wonder he's been picked up for his own spin-off movie.

So, Everything Is Awesome, right? Not quite everything, as the film does have it's issued. While the film is hilarious and completely successful as a comedy, when it occasionally reaches for something more it stumbles a little. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being "just" a comedy, and perhaps it would have been better to be content with that. Instead, we have a final act that is apparently intended to add some emotional resonance to it, seeking to mine similar territory to the Toy Story franchise (particularly Toy Story 3). Unfortunately, the way they decide to do it is a final-act twist that falls flat and essentially undermines all the brilliant world building they have done before.

There's some character issues too. They try so hard to make Emmet a generic everyman, that he barely has a personality of his own. It's ultimately largely down to Chris Pratt's winning performance that he manages to be as likeable as he is. There's also a distinct lack of female characters. Although female lead Wyldstyle ticks all the boxes for the archetypal Strong Female Character® she's ultimately playing second-fiddle to Emmet- even though she's clearly a much more capable character than he is. Accusations that the film is actively sexist are probably a little unfair, but the promise that the sequel will feature much more of a balance is definitely welcome.

Despite the disappointing ending (and your mileage may vary on that) The Lego Movie is still a highly successful, and irresistible concoction. It's an extremely funny, creatively ingenious animation with a positive message.  Despite all the hoo-ha about the Academy's decision to overlook it, it really doesn't matter. This is a movie that is going to be loved by audiences the world over for many, many years to come.