Show Your Theme Instead of Saying It: All of my top five movies are intensity personal artistic statement, but there’s another type of greatness exemplified by this movie: the deceptively-complex fun-time fable. Like Frozen, this is a thematically complicated movie aimed at little kids, trusting them and their parents to unpack the meaning over several viewings.
At first this movie seems to set up an easy dichotomy right out of The Matrix: unimaginative conformity bad / creative rebellion good, but then things get more and more complex. Soon it’s going places that few movies would dare to go and challenging deep-set orthodoxies of 21st century parenting: showing that a world in which everybody is expected to compete for a place in the creative-elite is equally problematic because both sides punish normality.
One could say that the shock-ending, despite its undeniable emotional punch, dials things back to a more straightforward moral, but a writer must trust that the doubts raised will linger, even after the ending seems to tip towards one side or the other of the thematic dilemma.
Tomorrow: A familiar voice...
My favorite thing about THE LEGO MOVIE was how clearly and honestly it seemed to understand the Lego brand -- both the genuine appeal of these amazing toys (whether you follow the instructions or build from scratch following your bliss) and some of the missteps the company itself had made in recent years. Like the rabid promiscuous cobranding frenzy that resulted not only in Batman Legos (I love that he's kind of a doofus in the film), but Shaquille O'Neal Legos too.
This is exactly the right approach, philosophically, to adapting a great piece of intellectual property into a film. And it's the perfect rejoinder to any nervous studio exec or property owner who reflexively wants to play it safe with a movie based on their product.
By the way, there's a pretty good short documentary on Netflix called INSIDE LEGO about the new CEO who turned the company around from the brink of bankruptcy by applying some of these same lessons.
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