An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.
There's no way this should work, but...
Writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed their first CGI animated feature -- 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' -- in 2009 before moving into R-rated live action with '21 Jump Street' in 2012, and have returned to animation for 'The LEGO Movie'. (They also wrote and executive produced 'Cloudy 2'.)
Honestly, I'm simply in awe of these filmmakers (and the artistic teams they assemble).
Sure, the first 'Cloudy' was creative, odd, and a lot of fun, but who would have guessed what they could do with 'Jump Street'? So many bad TV-show-to-movie adaptations think the only way to update older properties is to add post-modern cynicism and irony. '21 Jump Street' is a genuinely hilarious movie with solid character arcs and smart meta-commentary on Hollywood story structure as well as the inherent laziness of reboots. I'm so, so excited for '22 Jump Street', which is getting some promising early buzz.
So why mention all these other productions? They all share a common theme of earnestly embracing material while poking fun at inherent commercial requirements. 'The LEGO Movie' could have been a lazy cash-in, simply referencing various brands within its universe. How were the filmmakers going to tie together all of these disparate universes and brands? How could it be anything more than synergy and branding and all sorts of other corporate buzzwords that end up creating paint-by-numbers committee movies?
Instead, 'The LEGO Movie' is an absolute joy. Endless verbal and visual gags. More commentary on story structure (this timing taking on The Chosen One / Hero's Journey). Terrific action. And, at its heart, a moving, emotional story we can't really talk about without diving into spoilers.
But I'm way ahead of myself here. What the heck is this movie about anyway?
'The LEGO Movie' opens on the magical Vitruvius (Morgran Freeman) trying to protect an ultimate weapon -- the Kragel -- from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). When Lord Business blinds and defeats Vitruvius, Vitruvius makes a prophesy, saying The Special will come one day and is destined to find the Piece of Resistance, the only thing in the known universe that can stop the Kragel.
Eight and a half years later, we meet Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), a LEGO construction worker so plain and average and forgettable, no one really knows who he is or what he likes. Emmet's an extremely enthusiastic person, but you can tell being alone all the time is starting to wear him down and he doesn't understand why. He follows all the instructions.
One night, after Emmet sees a mysterious beautiful woman digging around his construction site, he falls into a deep underground shaft where he accidentally finds the Piece of Resistance and becomes The Special before passing out.
When Emmet wakes, Bad Cop / Good Cop (Liam Neeson) has captured him. An agent of Lord Business, BC/GC won't let Emmet stop Business' evil plans to destroy the LEGO universe in three days (on Taco Tuesday). But before Emmet and the Piece of Resistance can be melted down, the mysterious beautiful woman returns to rescue Emmet. Her name: Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks). Wildstyle is excited at first to have found the Special, but quickly realizes Emmet is very much the wrong guy.
The Special is supposed to be a Master Builder. That is, a person who can build LEGO props and vehicles and devices out of any available LEGOs without the help of instructions (remember: Emmet can only follow instructions). How in the world is he supposed to lead a fellowship to defeat Lord Business and stop the Kragel???
What follows is a classic quest tale through all sorts of crazy LEGO universes, through various brands. There are cowboys and pirates and astronauts and DC Comics super heroes and wizards and unicorn-kitties and robots and even 'Star Wars' characters. Seriously, have you ever wondered what would happen if Batman got to hang out with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando? Well, now you get to find out.
'The LEGO Movie' is impossibly creative on all levels. Produced mostly as CGI animation, with a wee bit of live action stop motion, the first thing you will notice is all the world details. The film uses real LEGO pieces for everything, even little things like water droplets, which not only sets up many jokes, but is also wonderfully engrossing. You'd swear this was an impeccable stop-motion production. It looks like photo-realistic toys have come to life in a way where you could create these environments in your home.
From a story standpoint, 'The LEGO Movie' is a film for all ages and all audiences. It balances multiple tones, deftly weaves a story that both embraces its synergistic origins while poking fun at it and all sorts of evil villain / The Chosen One quest movies. What's so impressive to me here is how every moment manages to be a joke / serve character arcs / move the plot along all at once. And what it all means in the end… Again, I'm bumping up against revealing plot points, but the way this movie concludes truly elevates the whole piece.
'The LEGO Movie' embraces the child in us all (and, you know, is good for actual children), giving audiences a sense of imagination and wonder and adventure that you probably haven't experienced since you were building and tearing down your own LEGOs (or whatever toy was popular in your day). I laughed. I was genuinely touched. And I still can't get that damn song out of my head ("Everything is awesome..."). I suppose that's the only problem with the movie. If you have children, they're going to sing this song (and the 'Frozen' soundtrack) for the next year straight. So good luck to you. Thanks to productions like this one and 'Cloudy' and '21 Jump Street', I shall from this point forward sprint to every Lord and Miller movie opening weekend, shouting "Take my money!"
Yellow minifigures obey and follow the rules on Ultra HD Blu-ray, creatively piecing together various interlocking plastic bricks as they please thanks to an awesome, near-reference quality HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10. And in all honesty, when compared to its Blu-ray counterpart and other available UHD titles, the transfer serves as a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the new format. Granted, the CG-animated film was originally rendered in 2K resolution while the live action sequences were shot on the Arri Alexa camera, which maxes at 2.8K resolution, and the elements were later mastered in a 2K digital intermediate. But when done right and with care, the results can yield an outstanding upgrade over its predecessor. Also worth noting, it seems as though the source may have been color graded to take full advantage of the wider color gamut, giving early adopters one of the best Ultra HD Blu-rays worth purchasing just for its demo-worthy quality.
As would be expected, considering its origins, the digital-to-digital transfer is jaw-dropping from start to finish with razor-sharp lines and clarity in every frame. The LEGO world is all the more squeaky clean and sterile, as intended by the filmmakers, displaying a near flawless and unblemished environment of ordered perfection. The edges of each block are resolute and pointed with a very slight roundness to them, making each deceptively angular shape in the plain architecture of the houses seem as though the filmmakers used real LEGO blocks. I was most taken aback by the lifelike textures in every plastic piece and minifigure, exposing the tiniest little bumps, pits and dimples throughout the entirety of the digitally rendered film while the meld lines in Emmet's hair adds another level of impressive realism. The most trivial detail, tiny nuance or particularity in the background is as sharply-defined as any object in the foreground, and minor blemishes like the subtle scratches make the blocks appear aged and used. Even during fast-paced action sequences, whether vehicles suddenly erupt in explosions or conversations break out into the rapid-fire editing, things remain distinct and unwavering.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the 2160p video is noticeably brighter, more vibrant and highly energetic than the Blu-ray, offering several amazing demo-worthy sequences throughout. Contrast is right on the money and crisp, allowing for remarkable visibility of the most minute feature and facet. Whites burst and pop off the screen with brilliant luminosity, giving light fixtures, the pure rays of the sun and fluffy clouds an enthusiastic, intense glow. Specular highlights along the edges of buildings and various blocks in every scene come with a resplendent, shimmering radiance that impressively displays a different shade of white, from the clouds and the uniform of Bad Cop/Good Cop to the signs littering Brickburg and Emmet's glistening grey construction uniform. Brightness levels are extraordinarily dynamic with precise, luxurious gradations in the grayscale, delivering inky, pitch-black shadows that never obscure the finer details in the darkest portions. Differences between the lighter and darker portions of the frame and the characters are plainly visible, creating a splendid cinematic, three-dimensional appearance that's consistent.
Of most interest to early adopters is the wider color gamut, showing the movie benefiting the most from the jump to UHD. The 4K presentation is a dazzling, hypnotizing feast for the eyes, full of vibrant colors that never sway but illuminate the screen with a sumptuous satiny sheen and gleaming with energy. From the deep, fiery reds of Lord Business's boots and helmet to the flamboyant blue skies and the green costume of Green Lantern, primaries saturate the screen with a happy-go-lucky feel right from the opening moments. Even during the darkest moments, viewers will be mesmerized and overwhelmed by the luxurious splendor of it all. Secondary pastel hues brim with a boldness that further complements the lighthearted humor and gives each character a life of their own. The yellow faces of each minifigure are truer to life while most impressive is the surprising difference between the purples, violets and magentas in the explosions and gun blasts. Without a doubt, the best and most visually striking scene is when Emmet arrives at "Cloud Cuckoo Land" where every color imaginable is on display, making this Ultra HD Blu-ray one of the finest and most impressive releases on the new format.
This Ultra HD Blu-ray of carries over an identical 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix from the original Blu-ray release, which is awesomely fantastic as Michael S. Palmer pointed out his review. Listening on my system, I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment, so I'll simply repeat what he originally wrote. Only thing I wish to add is that the lossless mix also comes with an excellent low-end that adds a good deal of depth the design, particularly the bass heavy music (bass chart).
"There's so much to love about this multi-channel sound mix. It's not the most aggressive you've ever heard, and I would have preferred a 7.1 option, but I have zero complaints. The voice actors are perfectly placed in the center and other channels. Surround activity is both subtle in the way it builds out city environments with small details, and also extremely immersive, such as when Vitruvius' voice swirls around the audience during a chase sequence. And LFE fans, you're in for a real treat. Check out the scene where Batman plays his "real music" after talking about the Batmobile's subwoofers. I'd be interested to know what frequencies we're dealing with exactly, but it's thunderous and super low. Great, great track. A top-tier 5.1 release."
'The LEGO Movie' is fantastic on all levels. It's hilarious, exciting, clever, heartwarming, and pokes fun at modern story conventions. Lord and Miller are a filmmaking team capable of pulling off the impossible. Taking reboots and synergistic consumer tie-ins, and turning them into tightly script stories that work really, really well. A film for moviegoers of all ages.
This Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a fantastic, reference-quality 4K video presentation, especially because of the extraordinary array of colors and the razor-sharp definition. The film also comes with the same, demo-worthy DTS-HD MA audio presentation, along with the same collection of supplements, making the overall package worth checking out for fans and early adopters enthusiastic about the new format.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.