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The Lego Movie – review

“A totalitarian-capitalist fantasy,” I said to myself, after watching the “The Lego Movie”, a computer-animated movie that Fox News slammed as an anti-capitalist propaganda. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the movie is based on the LEGO line of construction toys and was released on February 7. With a 100-minute run time, “The LEGO Movie” is a roller-coaster commercial that leaves you kicking for more: the LEGO world is impressively well-rendered in the form of a plastic phantasmagoria, the storyline is packed with satirical zingers and the voice cast is exceptional.

Set in a clockwork world of LEGO elements, “The LEGO Movie” tells the story of Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO construction worker with no special abilities. His life in his world— where everything is routine, mundane and predictable— feels like a cog in the machine. It is a world where he is happy to pay $37 for a cup of coffee and sing along to upbeat faux pop anthem “Everything Is Awesome.” In short, he is a model citizen of the LEGO world which is controlled by Lord Business (Will Ferrell), an evil tyrant who wants everything built in the world according to his vision and instructions. Life for Emmet is hunky-dory until he runs into Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a flamboyant and fearless LEGO female, and falls in with a group of extraordinary LEGO builders, called the Master Builders, who can construct anything without instruction manuals. The Master Builders—led by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a white-haired wizard—mistakenly take Emmet for “The Special”, a Master Builder who is prophesized to save the world from the evil plans of Lord Business, who is conspiring to freeze the entire LEGO world so that people cannot tamper with the idealized vision of his LEGO world. The rest of the plot follows the journey of the archetypical hero who reluctantly accepts the call to adventure and, in doing so, realizes his heroic destiny.

Coming back to the capitalist vs. anti-capitalist import of the movie, I found the movie to be a cleverly-executed LEGO corporation commercial, which echoes the radical marketing of Apple’s Super Bowl advertisement in 1984.  While one can see streaks of a proletariat revolutionary in the protagonist of the movie, the ending of the movie suggests that the protagonist has a rather benign agenda— i.e. reconciliation with capitalism in the form of “balancing creativity with a follow-the-rules approach to life.”

Not surprisingly, Mark Kermode, a film critic, describes “the repositioning of luddite LEGO bricks [in form of this movie] as a saleable staple of the digital gaming revolution” as “one of the greatest marketing coups of the 21st century.”

So in a world of conglomerates and big money, if a global corporation produces a record-breaking commercial film with a commoditized narrative that makes a case for an anodyne individuality in a global business order, what would you call it? A successful product or propaganda marketing or an opiate for the masses, I leave it up to the reader to decide.

With a current IMDB rating of 8.5, the movie has grossed nearly $200 million worldwide in its first 10 days of release.