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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Lego Movie

Welcome once again to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about one of the many DVDs, Blu-Rays, and odd VHS I still own.  This time out, we get to one of the surprise hits of last year, The Lego Movie.  I originally watched this and jotted down my review on July 5, 2014.

Of course I had Lego when I was a kid.  Who hasn't in this day and age?  But, truth be told, it was always a toy I was kind of intimidated by.  My brother was the one who was the Master Builder.  We had this big bucket of Lego pieces that we'd always dig through to find the perfect pieces.  My brother was the one who eventually had the brilliant idea to grab a beach towel from the linen closet.  We'd lay the towel out on the floor, dump out the bucket on the towel, and then we could spread out all the Lego pieces and find everything we needed that much easier.  Time to put it away?  Just pick up the towel, and carefully dump the Lego back in the bucket.  And my brother, he could always build the most beautiful things.  In his expert hands, a pile of blocks easily became a jet fighter, or a race car, and they looked magnificent.  Me?  About the best I could always do was bigger blocks.

That's why I always gravitated towards Lego sets.  They had instructions!  And they told you how to build things!  Now I could build stuff as cool as my brother's!  My favourite is still the Lego space shuttle I got for Christmas when I was 12.  I loved it.  And I refused to take it apart and dump the pieces in the bucket -- the final fate of all Lego creations -- because I knew I would never, ever be able to build something that cool again.  I even seriously considered taking it apart and putting it back together, using model cement to glue the pieces together, so its awesomeness would always be preserved. 

So, if you've seen The Lego Movie, you may understand why certain aspects of it hit home for me. 

When I first became serious about collecting action figures for a hobby and started following movements in the toy industry, I'd been reading about developments on some kind of Lego movie for at least 15 years or so.  When it came out this spring, I was all ready to give it a pass, though, but much like Frozen, the overwhelmingly positive reviews piqued my curiosity enough to go see it. 

One thing I did agree with the critics on was how unbelievably funny the movie is.  It is kind of like Wreck-It Ralph and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in that, thanks to all these licenses Lego has picked up over the years, they were able to get Batman, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all into one movie.

While the pop culture references were fast and funny, I'm really hesitant to call it a brilliant skewering of the whole "Hero's Journey/Chosen One" formula that seems to dominate sci-fi and fantasy films these days.  They seem a little reluctant to stray too far from the formula or ravage it too roughly, as ultimately they're still following that formula. 

So our hero is Emmet, a simple construction worker in the Lego City of Bricksburg.  Emmet is a guy who's so desperate to follow the instructions and blend in and make friends that he does it a little too well, and thus he's overlooked by, well, pretty much everyone.  All that changes when, late on the construction site one night, he falls down a tunnel, and winds up with the mysterious "Piece of Resistance" fused to his back.  And this thrusts him into a secret war being raged between President Business, the ruler of all, and the Master Builders.  See, the Master Builders seek to do away with instructions and build whatever they want.  However, President Business wants to keep everything in its neat and tidy order, and he's amassed the ultimate weapon - the Kragle - which will allow him to do just that.  When Emmet appears with the Piece of Resistance - the only item that can undo the Kragle - the Master Builders immediately proclaim him to be "The Special," the greatest of all Master Builders who will lead them to victory over Lord Business.  But, the joke is, Emmet, in his instructions-following obsession, has never had an original thought in his life, and everyone doubts he truly is the Special. 

Let's talk about the Kragle.  One of the film's running jokes is how objects from the real world have found their way into the Lego World.  The Kragle...the stuff that can fuse bricks together to maintain their order forever...is Krazy Glue.  And the letters are worn away on the tube so that only the letters "K-R-A-G-L-E" remain.  And the Piece of Resistance?  The cap for the tube of glue.  I wondered if Krazy Glue got any product placement cash for its use in the film.  I did freeze frame the end credits today and saw the credit "Krazy Glue and all related trademarks used with permission."  So, Krazy Glue got something out of it.

And of course, that leads into the big plot twist that everyone declared to be genius.  When Emmet makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends, Emmet finds himself transported to the real world.  These parts of the film were filmed in live-action.  And here, we discover, that this whole adventure has been playing out in the imagination of a little kid.  Seems that Bricksburg and all the other Lego lands we've seen in the film are the kid's father's highly intricate Lego models, and the kid has gotten into his dad's Lego.  Then Dad comes home (played by President Business's voice, Will Ferrell), and Dad's upset because the kid's been messing with his Lego.  So the battle between Lord Business and the Master Builders is actually a struggle going on between a father and son. 

A friend of mine and I were chatting about this the other day, and despite it being heralded as a revolutionary plot twist, it did feel a little out of place.  Here you are, enjoying this fun and funny movie about Lego people trying to save the Lego world, and then BAM!  Suddenly you're in the middle of this father/son coming-of-age comedy-drama.  It quite literally takes you out of the movie.  But it does add to a greater emotional payoff when Emmet and Lord Business have their final battle and reconciliation. 

I remember taking to Twitter after the film and tweeting that I wonder how Lego felt about this final film.  I mean, it's very hard to find basic Lego sets anymore.  Everything is a licensed product now, so the fact that the message of the movie is throw out your instructions and build whatever you want...I wonder if Lego was comfortable with that?  Browsing the Lego section of my corner toy store, I don't see that it brought back a return of basic Lego sets, so, I guess it's the status quo for now. 

However, as I type this, I look around the room at my collection of action figures, and I can't help but wonder what kind of father I'll be when I have kids.  Will I be able to share my toys?  Will I be like the dad in the film and be all, "No!  These are mine.  Don't wreck them!"  Questions that I'll probably have to deal with some day.  Because it seems that, even at a young age, I wanted the awesomeness of my toys to be preserved. 

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