The LEGO Movie is far better written and directed than you have any right to expect. On the surface it is basically a cash in on the brands popularity. It would have been so easy just to skate through with some jokes and licensed figures to prop things up.
Instead what we get is a multi-layered movie that can satisfy a variety of audiences and that has been crafted with what has to be love for the source material (yes I'm talking about plastic bricks).
On the surface we have a fast paced mixture of action and jokes that will keep kids pretty entertained. There's also another layer of jokes clearly aimed at the adults (80s references, Starbucks coffee etc.) This is not the most original material but it's done well.
However, we've barely scratched the surface. For example when the master builders in the movie put together new items, we see catalog numbers. Yes the LEGO catalog numbers for those parts. Because the movie isn't just a LEGO Animation it's a faithful animation of actual LEGO parts.
How faithful? Even the water and the flames and the smoke are LEGO bricks (well computer modeled versions of LEGO bricks) but the point is they completely embrace the LEGO model concept and it's gorgeous to look at.
LEGO has a pretty good track record when it comes to computer animation, but this is on a whole other level. The texturing here is remarkable. These models have the imperfections that real LEGO bricks have. They are word, scratch or have bite marks. They are just amazingly lifelike LEGO.
Some of the models that are created and destroyed as the action zooms along look fantastic and I almost wanted the ability to freeze frame in the theater to get a better look at them.
Its obvious to me that the people behind this love LEGO.
And it shows in other ways too. While we do get the traditional and kid friendly messages about being yourself and acceptance, we also get a message for the adults about embracing the kid in you.
But while that last message may come across heavy handed at times, it's also clear that the creators (and LEGO) really do believe that their toy isn't just about following the picture instructions (also lovingly recreated in the movie) and building the existing model. That's the starting point and you go from there. And so the movie exhorts you to be creative, to break a few rules and to make new things out of old.
Speaking of stories (I think I was at some point) it did seem from the trailers as though some of the cameos might dominate the movie, but they really don't. Batman is the only one who gets more than a few minutes screentime and he is the but of a lot of jokes. But the real plot and character development comes from Wildstyle and Emmett.
Emmett is our (deliberately generic and bland) protagonist, but Wildstyle gets to develop beyond the but kicking female trope into something a little deeper as well. They both get their moments to shine. It's a sweet story that's not over-played.
It's hard to imagine anyone coming out of the movie theater with anything less than a grin on their face after watching this film.