Every now and then, a Movie comes along that critics and the American movie-going public seem to agree upon. Everyone likes it, everyone thinks it's swell, and no one's too quick to offer much in the way of a thoughtful opinion about the ideas at work. I don't want to be the nay-sayer on this one, as I, admittedly, loved about 80% of what I saw. The humor is spot-on, the performances fantastic, and the animation is beyond belief.
That said, I have to point out two tiny, teensy, itty-bitty, minor, insignificant little tenants of good storytelling: 1) stories have to operate according to the Internal Logic they establish, and 2) stories must be honest in order to ring true. (And before I get started, don't say, hey, monkey, wait a minute, aren't you forgetting, it's a kids' movie! The target audience may be children, but it wasn't made by children − though, if you believe later plot developments, an eleven-year-old would make a great Hollywood director of tentpole feature animation projects; besides, who says kids' movies get a pass on good storytelling?).
Regarding logic, a story's internal logic must be established, generally, from the outset and followed in order for the story to be effective and coherent. Take Toy Story, for example. In that movie, we know, right away, that toys can walk and talk − but only when humans are absent. This basic rule, once established in the first five minutes of the movie, is obeyed throughout by the storytellers, and the result is a series of escalating crises that keep us, the audience, emotionally involved in the story. Now, this doesn't mean a movie can't break its own rules, but the rule-breakage has to be earned and honest. Again, in Toy Story, when the toys finally do reveal their agency to a human, it's to scare the bejeezus out of him, which, let's face it, is what would really happen if your toys started talking (see item 2 above: honesty).
Near the end of The Lego Movie's second act, we learn that "The Man Upstairs" is actually a disappointing dad, a live-action Will Ferrell obsessed with ordering his world, gluing it together, and daring anyone − including his son − to touch it. Until this point, of course, we've simply bought into the premise that our favorite Lego pieces are walking and talking and living in a fully established Lego world that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with reality. I was on board for that, but the odd attempt at merging the Lego World and the real world is jarring. Why? Because the movie did not, from the very beginning, establish any basic internal logic about the co-existence of these two worlds. And, regarding the honesty of this sub-plot, well, it's pap. I don't believe the resolution for a second. Because any man weird enough to super-glue his Legos together wouldn't see the error of his ways so quickly and hug his boy and say he's sorry. No, he'd probably yell at the kid and then crack the kid upside the head, and then the boy's mother would take her son and go to her mother's and call a lawyer and file for divorce. This, weirdly, would have been a more honest route for the storytellers to take; they were the ones, after all, who decided to introduce the notion of a disappointing, overbearing father but then didn't take it seriously. Judging from what I've read in praise of the film from critics and movie-goers alike, not very many people did.
All that said, let me reiterate my praise from above: humor was awesome, voice-cast was awesome, animation was awesome, but everything? Everything, unfortunately, was not.
Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller