Monday, June 30, 2014

"The Lego Movie": two-paragraph review

My buddy Charles La Shure once wrote a short story titled "Black and White." That story, though written years ago, was prophetic, for it foretold, in spookily exact detail, both the narrative style and structure of 2014's "The Lego Movie." After I watched "Lego" this evening, Charles's story was the first thing I thought of, and since you've probably seen the film, I'm going to spoil the plot for you: in both "Black and White" and "The Lego Movie," the twist is that we are witness to a world within a world. In "Black and White," the contending armies and potentates are actually just chess pieces being manipulated by a father and son; in "The Lego Movie," the Lego adventurers are merely Legos also being manipulated by a father and son. In both stories, a father/son tension drives the narrative, but this isn't made obvious at first: the reveal happens later, and then the focus shifts back and forth between the two worlds. The major difference between "Black and White" and "The Lego Movie" is that "Lego" goes for comedy, whereas "Black and White" is more serious in tone. Another possible difference is that the underlying theme of "Lego" is about orderly, uncreative teamwork versus chaotic, creative individuality—and the need for these two tendencies to coexist. Charles's story focuses more on the relationship between the father and the son. Still, those differences paled beside the stories' fundamental similarities. I shook my head in wonder while watching "Lego"; it almost felt as if Hollywood might owe my friend some money for stealing his idea. The template for "Lego" really is, almost exactly, a copy of the template for "Black and White."

Having just watched "Wreck-It Ralph" (reviewed here), I felt "The Lego Movie" wasn't quite as good; the stiff, Lego-y animation was sometimes hard to follow, and some of the action didn't make sense to me. That said, the movie had no shortage of humor, both subtle and unsubtle, and the voice characterizations were well done. I don't think I found the movie as touching as some reviewers apparently did, but "Lego" was nevertheless entertaining, with its own parade of pop-culture and high-culture references, including nods to Aristophanes and Renaissance painters. The philosophical issues in "Lego" were as profound as those in "Ralph"; "Lego" ultimately concludes with the notion that chaos and order are best harmonized as a coincidentia oppositorum: there's a place for kosmos and a place for chaos, and sometimes the best mind is the emptiest mind—where "emptiness" doesn't imply stupidity so much as it suggests, in Taoist fashion, receptivity and potential. As usual, Hollywood also tacks on a message about the power of belief. In addition, the film includes a bit of "Toy Story"-style magical realism when the Lego protagonist, realizing he's a toy in the human world, tries to move on his own... and succeeds. In short: "Lego" is funny, watchable, and strangely deep, although in lesser measure when compared with "Wreck-It Ralph."


1 comment:

John from Daejeon said...

I don't know if you've seen the action flick, The Raid (look who recommends it at 1:42), but the sequel was released earlier this year. They are both very entertaining, and make a great pro-gun argument as real-life bad guys aren't at all governed by the laws of our so-called civil society.