By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If and when you take your kids to see The Lego Movie –- and you know you will –- they’ll probably have an okay time.
And you’ll probably have an okay time watching them have an okay time. Maybe you’ll even have a chuckle or two as well.
But make no mistake about it: this is a 100-minute commercial. Sales pitches don’t come any more thinly disguised as a movie.
The product being sold here is Lego, the childhood playtime favorite from the Danish company, The Lego Group. The toys are, as if you didn’t know, colorful interlocking bricks and accompanying gears and mini-figures used in the building of buildings, vehicles, and robots.
The name comes from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well.”
As to whether you will therefore see The Lego Movie as the most blatant blast of cinematic cynicism you’ve ever experienced will depend on your tolerance for misrepresentation.
The computer-animated comedy, available in 3-D (ho-hum, so what else is new?), has been fashioned, from its title to its plot to its dialogue to its look, to appeal to the children in the audience without disenfranchising the grownups in attendance.
To that end, the film is a parade of frenetic action sequence after frenetic action sequence to dazzle the youngsters, accompanied by a sprinkling of one-liners and sight gags meant to get a smile or laugh from the dutiful chaperones.
The narrative centers around Emmet Brickowoski, voiced by Chris Pratt, an ordinary citizen (a construction worker by trade) who lives and works in the community of Bricksburg.
When the villainous Lord Business, a repressive overlord voiced by Will Ferrell, develops a plan to destroy the way the Lego universe works, the powers that be select Emmet, mistakenly thinking he is more or less their savior, to come to their rescue.
Emmet knows he’s out of his league, but he gets help from such rebels as Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett).
And let’s not forget the participation of Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop, Alison Brie as Unikitty, Jonah Hill as Green Lantern, Channing Tatum as Superman, Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman, Charlie Day as Benny, Will Forte as Abraham Lincoln, Anthony Daniels as C3PO, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, Nick Offerman as Metal Beard, and Shaquille O’Neal as himself.
Yep, lots of famous folks were invited to this party, and most of them are severely underutilized.
Co-directors Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) and Chris McKay (Shrek the Third, Puss in Boots) also include a live-action, message-delivering sequence late in the game that, frankly, suggests the better and more palatable movie this might have been.
Now, I realize that I’m not a representative of the target audience, but every time the self-serving term, “master builder,” is uttered, which seems about every ten seconds, you half expect a sales clerk to come out from behind the screen holding an array of toys available for instant purchase.
The phrase, “master builder,” which is crammed into the dialogue like commuters on a rush-hour subway, just happens to be (coincidence alert! coincidence alert!) the name of the new academy which issues a series of for-purchase kits for Lego customers.
And as the film’s directors have more or less said in interviews, virtually every frame represents something that could be replicated by anybody spending enough money to acquire sufficient Lego bricks.
So we’ll play with 2 stars out of 4 for The Lego Movie. There are bricks just about everywhere in this enterprise, but the biggest and baddest brick being dropped may just be the film itself.