The Lego Movie (2014)
August 26, 2014 11:34 AM - Subscribe

An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

Are there subtexts to The Lego Movie that I'm missing?

The frenetic pace and music level of this movie made it hard for me to watch, but the little jokes ( all vehicles make the pbbbbbbt! noise when they move) were great.

Does anyone know anything about Lego aficianado culture, though? Are there people who make permanent Lego-scapes? Is there a divide between people who follow directions and those who don't?

Did the boy identify with the Regular Guy? I kind of doubt it, since everyone was so contemptuous of him, including the filmmakers. I am trying to figure out how much of the plot was the boy's and how much was independent of him. I would not have been so meta at his age as he was but I had a rather brilliant friend who I think was, so it's not outside the realm, I guess.

I actually didn't enjoy this movie but I have been thinking about it for a couple of days, so there's that.
posted by small_ruminant (45 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does anyone know anything about Lego aficianado culture, though? Are there people who make permanent Lego-scapes?

Probably. I'm sure there are people who build LEGO "models" and want them to be permanently set that way.

Is there a divide between people who follow directions and those who don't?

Yesssss. As I've mentioned before, my wife still gets LEGO sets for Christmas and her birthdays, and she is firmly in the "do not mix sets" camp, while I grew up with LEGOs and played with them well into my teens, and I never thought of keeping the pirates away from the spacemen, let alone keeping the sets together. How else can you make your mega-sets?

I actually didn't enjoy this movie but I have been thinking about it for a couple of days, so there's that.

My wife and I liked it well enough. I wouldn't say it was amazing, but there were some really great elements to it. I loved LEGO Batman, and the animation was amazing, as discussed on Cartoon Brew.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:42 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I suspect I'd've liked it if I could have watched it without the soundtrack. I do wish WyldStyle had been a more interesting character. I actually liked UniKitty better because she seemed less cookie cutter.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:58 AM on August 26, 2014


I've only seen it the once, but I thought that the choice, late in the third act, to break the fourth wall and introduce the boy and his father, was really risky and didn't really pay off for me. It changed the stakes far too radically, making the business of Emmet and President Business into a sideshow, or the subtext of the narrative I was watching suddenly became its own narrative. There were hints all along that it wasn't a pure Lego world -- Vitruvius' staff being a discarded lollypop stick; the existence of Crazy-Glue; &c -- but I don't feel that those effectively set up the break into the real world. It wasn't satisfying as storytelling, somehow.

Outside of this criticism, though, I thought it was a lot of fun. I walked out of it singing the song and everything, with a big smile on my face. It's a pretty risky piece of toy-inspired storytelling, and I respect them for not just telling another Hero's Journey, even though most of the story was basically a straight-up Hero's Journey with a few subversions here and there.

It's my understanding (from a friend who has a friend at Lego) that Lego had to work really hard to convince Warner NOT to make it just a two-hour commercial, and I think it mostly succeeds at that.
posted by gauche at 12:27 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


I rented it the other day, but my viewing was a bit disjointed, so I plan on rewatching at some point soon. I agree with gauche about the breaking of the fourth wall. I was almost disappointed by that. It was an interesting choice, but didn't really work for me, perhaps because I didn't have time to care about the new characters.

What I didn't get about the song was that it was the song of the "drones". Not sure why I should start humming that!
posted by idb at 12:39 PM on August 26, 2014


I do wish WyldStyle had been a more interesting character. I actually liked UniKitty better because she seemed less cookie cutter.

Thanks to various MetaFilter threads, I've been more critical of the presentation (or simply presence) of non-majority males in media, and this movie is as flawed as most of mainstream media (and beyond). WyldStyle had potential, but was so focused on Batman being her boyfriend, and the other female characters were ... UniKitty? And were there other identifiable "minority" characters? I don't remember. Sigh.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:06 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, agreed about the female characters. I had high hopes, seeing some of the advertisements for WyldStyle, that she'd be a character with more agency and definition than she had.
posted by gauche at 1:37 PM on August 26, 2014


There was an entire metafilter thread about the trailer for this movie.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:50 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


And another huge thread after it came out.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:51 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel like WildStyle was actually the prime actor in the movie. She pushes most of the action forward. It really isn't until Emmet builds his double-decker sofa that he becomes an active participant in the story.
posted by maxsparber at 1:56 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I said it in the earlier thread and I'll say it again: This was the Caddyshack of kids' movies.

And it was the Citizen Kane of brand tie-in movies (Toy Story doesn't count).
posted by Etrigan at 2:00 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


maxsparber: I feel like WildStyle was actually the prime actor in the movie.

Which made her continued references to her boyfriend, Batman, all the more annoying. I felt that there the love interest triangle was unnecessary, and cheapened some of the story.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having had a giant box full of LEGO all throughout growing up, the non-LEGO items in the world gave it a bit of verisimilitude. I had a couple of other toys floating in there that I'd always move past while searching for one specific piece.

There's a lot of stuff that makes it into the kid's story--there are expectations that adults drink big, expensive coffee drinks and there's something about romance, but it only progresses as far as holding hands.

Worth it for me just for Benny's story arc, as LEGO space guys are my first (and favorite) minifig.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:35 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


I actually liked UniKitty better because she seemed less cookie cutter.

Unikitty is awesome, and part of that (and why she's really not cookie cutter) is because she's a brick figure, not a minifig. When she changes poses, her bricks actually change -- sitting Unikitty has a different construction than standing Unikitty. This is more obvious in the Lego Movie game I think.

It changed the stakes far too radically, making the business of Emmet and President Business into a sideshow, or the subtext of the narrative I was watching suddenly became its own narrative.

I really liked that aspect of the movie, personally. Because we absolutely have no shortage of save-the-world action movies with high stakes. But a movie in which a character in that kind of story comes to discover that his world is just a creation of a higher-order world, that everything that's bad in his story is a reflection of a different, more personal problem in a different world, and then kinda-sorta bringing them both into alignment, I really like that. Emmet doesn't really do anything in the human world, but the nature of his character, of all the Lego characters, is kinda meta anyway. Seeing Emmet make friends with Lord Business is really a reflection of Finn and his dad reaching an understanding and learning to play together.

I enjoyed seeing that movie a lot more than just people saving the world again. Most movies, the stakes are too damn high.
posted by JHarris at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2014 [18 favorites]


That's a good article filthy light thief. It also confirms that Lego universe petrochemical-and-maybe-other-things company Octan is Business' company in the movie, not just the game; its logo is at the top of Emmet's morning instruction sheet.
posted by JHarris at 4:02 PM on August 26, 2014


The above-the-fold description is a massive spoiler. I thought the idea was that spoilers are safe inside the post, but not on the main Fanfare page?
posted by jbickers at 4:10 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I didn't write that above the fold part- maybe it came from IMDB or something?

But a movie in which a character in that kind of story comes to discover that his world is just a creation of a higher-order world, that everything that's bad in his story is a reflection of a different, more personal problem in a different world, and then kinda-sorta bringing them both into alignment, I really like that.

JHarris, that was the main part that's had me thinking, too. I would have forgotten the whole movie (except that irritating as fuck Everything Is Awesome! song) in 5 minutes.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2014


The above-the-fold description is a massive spoiler.

I haven't seen the movie since opening day, but I don't recall that description being anything that wasn't done in the first third or so. The Kragle and its effect are known to Emmett and the audience immediately after he begins his quest.
posted by Etrigan at 4:28 PM on August 26, 2014


I was confused. "Everything is awesome, when you're part of a team!" Only, that's the corporate message, so that's bad, and being an individual with unique ideas is good. Except when you have to work together with a bunch of other unique thinkers to defeat your enemy...so, everything is awesome, when you're part of a team! So, be a team that doesn't follow the rules?

In conclusion, Legoland is a land of contrasts.
posted by mimo at 4:29 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did the boy identify with the Regular Guy? I kind of doubt it...

...the choice, late in the third act, to break the fourth wall and introduce the boy and his father, was really risky and didn't really pay off for me.

It was an interesting choice, but didn't really work for me, perhaps because I didn't have time to care about the new characters.

Ummm, what movie were all of you watching? The boy and the father WERE the central characters of the movie. The son (as Emmett) is playing out the family dynamic with his father (as Business). They aren't new characters, they're the same characters you've been watching all along.

I mean, did you walk away from Usual Suspects wondering which one was Keyser Soze?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:12 PM on August 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ummm, what movie were all of you watching? The boy and the father WERE the central characters of the movie. The son (as Emmett) is playing out the family dynamic with his father (as Business).

Like I said above, it felt the subtext of the narrative I was watching suddenly became its own narrative, but without the same investment in the stakes. I can, in fact, read the subtext of the movie. Like I said, too, I respect them for trying the trick, but IMHO they didn't pull it off.

Having said that, I like JHarris's take on it and will try to keep that reading in mind when I inevitably watch it again.
posted by gauche at 6:00 PM on August 26, 2014


My favourite fan theory is that The Lego Movie is a sequel to Elf. The Man Upstairs is Buddy after getting married and having a son. The life of the Lego figures (and Emmett jumping off the Real World table) is the Christmas Spirit that still flows from him.

My question is: What is Lord Businesses hat made out of? I recognise the coffee cups, and the flames, but not the main part of the hat. Does anyone know what set that belongs to?
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:00 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is Lord Businesses hat made out of? I recognise the coffee cups, and the flames, but not the main part of the hat. Does anyone know what set that belongs to?

It appears to be non-recycled:
His new headpiece is a flagrantly stupid helmet measuring about 6X3X3, decorated with a 1X1 round plate and two coffee cups. Yes, coffee cups. I love that; he put some random LEGO parts on his special hat. I wish more of the headpiece was made of regular parts though; that would be even funnier. Instead we get one of the least reusable accessories ever. In its defence it does have four points of connection (the studs for the round plate and coffee cups, plus of course the anti-stud to attach to the head) and the two coffee-cup studs are a standard six studs apart. But the shape is so utterly bizarre, using it in a model would be nothing other than a challenge.
posted by Etrigan at 6:25 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was confused. "Everything is awesome, when you're part of a team!" Only, that's the corporate message, so that's bad, and being an individual with unique ideas is good. Except when you have to work together with a bunch of other unique thinkers to defeat your enemy...so, everything is awesome, when you're part of a team!

Yes. Initially the song is ironic: "Everything is awesome when you're part of a team" (...where everyone falls into groupthink...not so much really). At the end it's sincere: "Everything is awesome when you're part of a team" (...which values the diversity of the team members and the unique talents each person brings to the team...yeah, it kind of is awesome.) I thought the change in meaning for the same lyrics was clever and I enjoyed that, but I guess YMMV.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:02 PM on August 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Don't forget that Everything Is Awesome was written by Mark Mothersbaugh, of DEVO. If anyone would write a song with an eye for that kind of meaning, he would.
posted by JHarris at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


SPACESHIP!!!!
posted by tomboko at 7:58 PM on August 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


I had to stop it before the reveal, so when I got back to it, it was like a different, far crappier movie. I was so happy with that first movie, too. I could probably pinpoint the exact spot, because all the elements started to fail, like WyldStyle, etc.

The idea of gluing Legos is contrary to the concept of playing with Legos. That's for ridiculous Lego sculpture that's being funded, because they're not cheap anymore. It's one thing to glue a puzzle, because who wants to do that again, but I guess if you thought of it like a model, as in ship, plane, etc. which seems nuts because they aren't built to come apart-- definitely the behavior of a megalomaniacal deviant or crazy rich guy. That basement was somewhat reminiscent of the Barbra Streisand inspiration for Buyer & Cellar.
posted by provoliminal at 10:35 PM on August 26, 2014


I watched this with my nieces aged 5-12 and they loved it. I was a bit let down by WyldStyle's boyfriend obsession but Emmet, UniKitty and the spaceship guy were great.

Like jharris I liked the subtext turning into text - learning to play together is important even if it doesn't save the world. And I liked that it was about appreciating the unique qualities of a medium instead of forcing it to be something else. The Man Upstairs can get model trains and planes if he wants static accuracy; Lego is for recombining and rearranging to make imaginative new things.
posted by harriet vane at 1:20 AM on August 27, 2014


I appreciated how this movie parodied typical action movies. The hero is a dull white guy who is "special" for no good reason. The action centers around a McGuffin which no one really understands or cares about. But I wish it had gone a little further with that--you could make the same critiques about WyldStyle that you could make about Gamora or lots of other lady stars of action movies. Ditto Morgan Freeman's character--when you're parodying the "wise, helpful black man" stereotype it's a lot funnier and more radical to actually get out of that stereotype a little bit.
posted by chaiminda at 6:50 AM on August 27, 2014


I appreciated how this movie parodied typical action movies. The hero is a dull white guy who is "special" for no good reason. The action centers around a McGuffin which no one really understands or cares about.

I don't know if that was parody as much as "standard-issue Hollywood screenwriting circa 2014."

The gender roles in this thing were pretty retrograde. Everyone (rightly) picks on WyldStyle, but what about the live-action sequence, which elevated the father-son relationship to mythic status while keeping the only real live woman in the whole film in the kitchen. (Was that parody, too? Pretty dry humor, that.)

Also, bringing the film into the live-action realm made it feel much more explicitly like a commercial designed to make you go out and buy more things and I kind of recoiled from that. (And I love Lego products, even though I can rarely afford to buy one of the really nice sets.) For me, The Lego Movie was subversive in all the wrong ways.
posted by Mothlight at 8:17 AM on August 27, 2014


Yes. Initially the song is ironic: "Everything is awesome when you're part of a team" (...where everyone falls into groupthink...not so much really). At the end it's sincere: "Everything is awesome when you're part of a team" (...which values the diversity of the team members and the unique talents each person brings to the team...yeah, it kind of is awesome.) I thought the change in meaning for the same lyrics was clever and I enjoyed that, but I guess YMMV.

Ok then, I got the point while also totally missing it. I thought there were too many "messages". I wish they would have just stuck with either TEAMWORK! or the parent-child relationship. I guess my mileage in this vehicle sucks.
posted by mimo at 8:31 AM on August 27, 2014


I appreciated how this movie parodied typical action movies

"Come with me if you want to not die."

I don't know if that was parody as much as "standard-issue Hollywood screenwriting circa 2014."

I'm gonna give the "knew what they were doing, and what they were doing was parodying action movies" benefit of the doubt to the filmmakers, who also made the two 21 Jump Street films.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't know if that was parody as much as "standard-issue Hollywood screenwriting circa 2014."

Yeah, if it were a better parody (and it is a great one in parts) it would be clearer what was intentionally parody and what was laziness!
posted by chaiminda at 9:29 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna give the "knew what they were doing, and what they were doing was parodying action movies" benefit of the doubt to the filmmakers, who also made the two 21 Jump Street films.

Also, Clone High.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ummm, what movie were all of you watching? The boy and the father WERE the central characters of the movie. The son (as Emmett) is playing out the family dynamic with his father (as Business). They aren't new characters, they're the same characters you've been watching all along.

Here's the crazy thing, if Emmett is really just the son, then why did Emmett move on his own in the real world when the son was not present? The puppet basically came alive outside of the puppet world!

I actually hated the fourth wall breaking final segment, as it was the application of a sledgehammer to the message that was already being told. It came across as if the producers wanted everyone to be sure that this was a Will Ferrel movie and then offered to hold everyone's hand with regard to the conclusion. It's the grandson/grandpa scenes from The Princess Bride, totally unnecessary, adding really nothing at all. (Unless the loving aspect of father and son playing together was really the core message of the movie...which I don't think it was.
posted by Atreides at 11:17 AM on August 27, 2014


It's the grandson/grandpa scenes from The Princess Bride, totally unnecessary, adding really nothing at all.

Bite your tongue!

I had forgotten that this was the Clone High folks. That show was pure delicious parody for sure.
posted by chaiminda at 11:39 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Unless the loving aspect of father and son playing together was really the core message of the movie...which I don't think it was.

I think the core message of the movie is "Play with stuff the way you want to play with stuff, as long as you play," so, yeah, it kinda is that too.
posted by Etrigan at 11:42 AM on August 27, 2014


It's the grandson/grandpa scenes from The Princess Bride, totally unnecessary, adding really nothing at all.

...other than being the entire point of the movie, you mean?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:12 PM on August 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


I heard " Everything is Awesome" sung unironically at karaoke a few months ago.
posted by brujita at 4:18 PM on August 27, 2014


So it seems we totally need to have Princess Bride post in Fanfare...
posted by Atreides at 6:25 PM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I recently rewatched this at home after seeing it at the cinema on initial release. I have to say I still really enjoyed it. Found it so much fun, but yes problematical in parts, a lot like Guardians of the Galaxy I guess.

Everything is awesome!
posted by Fence at 10:12 AM on August 28, 2014


Best animation that I've seen in a long time. Possibly since Toy Story 3.
posted by Urtylug at 12:18 PM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Funniest line in a movie this year I almost fell off the couch laughing was from Batman:

"This is a song I wrote about how I'm an orphan."

Delivered in that growly Christian Bale-esque voice I thought it just summed up the GRRR GRRR DARKNESS of the Batman and Superman movies.
posted by marxchivist at 12:41 PM on August 28, 2014 [6 favorites]


Atreides: So it seems we totally need to have Princess Bride post in Fanfare...

I just asked about adding it to the Cult Movies cue. I was tempted to be bold and just post it in FanFare, but I thought I'd see if it should get scheduled instead.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:56 AM on August 29, 2014


And to complete the loop, Princess Bride will get included in the next batch of cult movie scheduling, which will start in November.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Funniest line in a movie this year I almost fell off the couch laughing was from Batman. I must disagree! It was Batman, missing with his batarang again and again until hitting and saying,

"First try."

And I not to get all meta meta on something already meta, but I'm wondering how many of the less kind critiques are from people who don't have kids and busy jobs. 'Cause when they broke the fourth wall (not unexpectedly), it certainly made me go, "Hey now, just a minute there...oh."
posted by digitalprimate at 5:19 AM on September 8, 2014


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