The Lego Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, 2014) is a surprising children’s film in the way it is incredibly postmodern. I came to the film knowing this as it was introduced to me during a university lecture on Postmodernism. It is a children’s toy take on both the swathes of Superhero films that now confront out screens and Orwell’s 1984. In fact, when watching President Business (Will Ferrell) gear himself for confrontation by adding all his ‘extras’: height, helmet, hair, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a new potential ‘President Business’ the United States may be on their way to electing….
Obviously, this film isn’t about that specifically – it was too early. But the point I’m making is that children’s films are remarkably clever in their sly depictions and can actually be deeply political and can actually be deeply political. These postmodern, political elements are littered throughout The Lego Movie in a way which almost restricts your enjoyment if you don’t know them – so who is this film aimed for? Kids or Adults? As an adult watcher I can see that Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius) is playing a parody of himself in the role of has become synonymous with – the wise old man (Bruce Almighty anyone?), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop/Good Cop), also, parodying himself in his many, many films were he is a dubious ‘hero’, and I see echoes of Will Ferrell’s role in Zoolander in his role of President Business.
Now, I personally love these type of effects in films, but do you get less out of the film is you don’t understand theses references? Is there enough merit in the actual plot for kids to enjoy? Or is the joy for Kids located in the spectacle? Reviews say yes, there is enough for Kids to enjoy, and talking to my friends’ daughter, she loved it, but I remain unsure.
Another element I am unsure about is when the film becomes live action, seemingly to add a morality caution to the narrative. Will Ferrell is mildly funny, as usual, but I found this tactic a little heavy-handed. It is this moment which reminds you that this remarkably clever film is actually for kids (perhaps that isn’t a bad thing after all) but watching as an adult who was able to enjoy the animation, the jokes and the storyline I found it twee. It also highlights for me, that still no one has quite managed to emulate the duality of Disney films – perfectly fine for children on the surface layer, but with extra jokes and references for adults. Whilst this section is important to remind us that it is a kids film, I wish it didn’t seem quite so patronising
Overall, and despite the impression this review may give, I loved the film. I actually laughed out loud, which is unusual. The animation was beautiful, a fantastic combination between stop motion and normative CGI, and the actors were fantastic both at being themselves and their characters (worth noting, that the only characters who do not get this second layer of meaning are the main ones: Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) possibly because they slot into normal stereotypes). I would recommend this as a kids film and an adult film, but wonder if this is a sign that the future of kids movies is in an adult audience.
Thoughts? Does it even matter?