By Katherine Jacobs
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The Lego Movie

This article is over 10 years, 2 months old
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, out now
Issue 389

This might appear to be an hour and a half long advert for Lego – its trailers are for Lego merchandising and Legoland – but five minutes in it becomes a witty attack on capitalism, passivity and the commodification of everything, especially Lego itself.

There’s an evil genius, Lord Business, who wants to the world to be static and is president of an evil corporation that owns and brands everything. The happy workers are distracted by terrible sitcoms, overpriced coffee and crappy pop music – “Everything is awesome”.

There’s a hero, Emmet, played by Chris Pratt, an ordinary construction worker who is destined to save the world, except he isn’t and it becomes a question of leadership and agency. There’s Good Cop/Bad Cop, alternately friendly and violent, played by Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman makes a good prophet.

There are strong female characters too including Wyldstyle, played by Elizabeth Banks, whose building skills and imagination are dazzling. It rips along as fast as the characters can rebuild their sets, with jokes about cartoons, building and how superheroes make rubbish boyfriends. And its animation stays true to the clunkiness of little yellow brick people.

This is not what I expected from the plastic corporation that gets letters of complaint from seven year olds that Lego sets have very few girls and they’re pink and only go to the beach and don’t even swim with sharks. It probably wasn’t what Lego expected either. But they gave the makers, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who made Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, complete creative freedom. The result is a smash hit that cost 60 million dollars but has raked in over 278,329,929 dollars in less than a month.

It’s tempting to romanticise Lego, from lovely non-sexist egalitarian Denmark, as originally gender neutral building blocks – named from lek godt, play well – and designed to stretch children’s imagination. But even in the 1970s Lego tried to appeal to girls by introducing doll’s houses, furniture and lots of pink. In reality it’s just another toy giant that hasn’t the imagination to realise they could extract even more money from the parents of girls if they were less sexist.

I didn’t see the 3D version of the movie so I can’t say whether it’s worth the extra money but the 2D was very entertaining and though small children will miss lots of the jokes, adults won’t be bored. This movie is truly awesome!

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