I have been thinking about â€œThe Lego Movieâ€ for two days straight now, and my brain shows no signs of letting up. I certainly did not walk into a movie about talking toys with the expectation that it would give me almost as much to wrestle with intellectually as â€œ2001: A Space Odysseyâ€.
But, as whoever was in charge of creating that five-ring display for the Olympics can tell you, life is full of surprises.
I can give you a basic review in about three seconds flat; â€œThe Lego Movieâ€ has been slightly overpraised over the past few weeks, but it is about ten times more enjoyable and intelligent than just about anyone could have imagined it would be. It is a smart, clean good time. But you see, â€œThe Lego Movieâ€ is, in its own singularly weird way, incredibly telling and impossibly profound.
The first thing about the picture that boggles the mind is its brisk and hyperactive imagination. Your average Pixar or Dreamworks film is a slick, sweet piece of storytelling with a few moments of elegant homage or gently knowing satire. By contrast, this film throws about a thousand split-second ideas at you every single minute. Oh, look! Morgan Freeman is making fun of himself, but he is also making fun of Gandalf! And Obi-Wan! Oh, look, thereâ€™s Channing Tatum as Supermanâ€”oh, my gosh, did you catch the Shakespeare reference and the flying Abe Lincoln?!
The short, stand-alone jokes come at you in a dazzling, vicious cascade, with all the relentless color and speed ofâ€¦well, of a kid dumping all the Legos out of a box at once.
Do I get a kick out of the filmâ€™s madly adrenalized, totally Twitter-era storytelling? Yes. Do I worry that it will leave kids without the patience needed to enjoy much of the worldâ€™s great art? Absolutely, because that is the kind of thing I worry about.
Even more thought-provoking is the filmâ€™s final twenty minutes, in which a clever bit of meta-narrative snaps all the disconnected scenes into place. During this finale, I realized that this movie about the little plastic blocks I played with as a kid actually has a pretty radical message.
What starts as a spastic spoof of action movies and fantasy epics ultimately turns into both an exploration of the childhood psyche and a potent piece of liberal-libertarian apologiaâ€”a screed against big business and a celebration of radical individualism over groupthink.
Now, is the filmâ€™s subversively adult message impressively conveyed? Yes. Does the fact that that message is issued in a film made by and for a corporation keep me up at night? Yes, because these are the sorts of things that keep me up at night.
But here I am using phrases like â€œliberal-libertarian apologiaâ€ to describe a movie with talking cats and a song called â€œEverything Is Awesome.â€ What a killjoy.
So, folks, here is the deal. Go see â€œThe Lego Movieâ€. Enjoy it on its own terms. Then, after a few hours have passed, drop by my dorm and we will worry about it together.