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‘The Lego Movie’ Excuse

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Way back in 2014 a little movie came out called The Lego Movie. This film had a lot going against it. It wasn’t a DreamWorks or Disney film (it was released by Warner Bros.) and it had a dumping ground release date of February 7th. But mostly, it was a movie based on toys. Nearly everyone thought this was a bad idea and with good cause. The Lego Movie could have so easily been a cash grab film like we see with the Chipmunk or Smurfs films.

But then it came out and nearly everyone loved it! Out of 224 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes only 9 are rotten and it has a very high audience score of 87%. What made The Lego Movie work is strong writing and directing by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and a visual style that appeared to be stop motion, while actually being CG. It also had a great voice cast with Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and many more.

I loved The Lego Movie. Aside from Song of the Sea and Tale of Princess Kaguya, it was my favorite animated film of 2014. When it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar that year I was as outraged as nearly everyone else.

With all that said, I have a little bone to pick regarding The Lego Movie’s fallout. It seems nearly every day I hear someone say, “well, we didn’t think The Lego Movie would be good” when a questionable idea for a film is proposed. Whether it be an emoji movie or film based on Pez dispensers, The Lego Movie seems to always be brought up as some kind of defense of a bad idea.

Here’s the thing: anything can be good with good writing. In 2014 there was a wonderful live-action film called Locke about a man driving in a car for 2 hours. He doesn’t get out of the car and nobody else enters the vehicle. He simply talks to people on his phone as he drives down the freeway. This was a good movie, but its existence does not justify a barrage of movies with people driving in cars the entire time. It’s the same way with The Lego Movie – just because one movie about toys had good writing doesn’t mean that any movie about toys should be green-lit and supported.

The other aspect of The Lego Movie people seem to forget is that Legos are not just toys. Legos are an entire world including all major comic book characters, Harry Potter, sports figures, historical figures, and even Star Wars. So the potential for The Lego Movie to be good is way higher than many other properties I have heard pitched. Something like The Angry Birds Movie has a narrow group of characters and worlds to pick from; with Legos the choices are endless.

Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I am just a little sick of hearing The Lego Movie excuse. What they did with that film is special and it should be viewed in that way. Naturally Hollywood is going to try and give us a million copycats (that’s why we can’t have nice things!), but I think some healthy skepticism is a good thing. Make the studios earn our faith in projects and then they will work harder to wow us.

And please, let’s stop with the Lego excuse…

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel has loved animation since she was a little girl singing songs from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. She currently works in social media marketing and loves to blog and vlog about Disney, Pixar and all kinds of movies in her free time. Her favorite movie is Up and she considers herself quite the Cinderella aficionado seeing every version she can get her hands on. She also loves animated TV shows like Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels and more. Follow her on twitter @smilingldsgirl
  • Míriam

    Nice article! I totally agree with you. The Lego movie works because of the many pre-established universes it draws from, and because the plot is so good. (For me, it works because of Batman! Lol!) Time will tell, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing some toy movies flop in the next few years…

    • Rachel Wagner

      Oh I love Batman in the Lego Movie! Can’t wait for his own movie.

  • Pantufla Ocho

    I dont use the LEGO movie exuse, I use the “Everithing is awesome” excuse,. Emoji movie? Awesome, angry birds movie? Awesome, Ratatoing? Awesome

    • Andrew Alderson

      Ratatoing?! You mean Ratatouie, not the knockoff film. You be ashamed for yourself for saying the title of that awful Video Benquito movie.

      • Pantufla Ocho

        Ja ha I was kidding, im tryng to say that Everithing is awesome, even ratatoing, or norm of the north, or Shark tale, everything is awesome

      • AnimatedMadness

        *ahem* Ratatouille.

        • Andrew Alderson

          Sorry.

          • AnimatedMadness

            No worries. I didn’t mean to offend. It just jumped out at me.

  • Baymax

    Heck, there was a quote in the Angry Birds ad that said “This year’s Lego Movie”

    • Rachel Wagner

      You’re right! That’s a great example of what I am talking about.

      • Baymax

        yes.

  • Dave 52

    Regardless, any film has the possibility to be good. Whether the idea is bad, stupid, ridiculous, or not. It all depends on the people behind the project and how much effort they put into wanting to make something good.

  • Nathan C.

    Am I the only one who thought The Lego Movie was a good idea? I mean, the Lego brand wasn’t disassociated with good storytelling before it came out. Game developer TT Games produced a title called Lego City Undercover, which swept me off my feet with how entertaining the cutscenes were. To me, a Lego-oriented theatrical production would only further explore that story potential. And I was pleasently surprised to be proven right.

    • Rachel Wagner

      You make a good point. Plus, there were a number of Lego direct to DVD movies before The Lego Movie came out that they could cut their teeth on.

  • Ryan Prieto

    As a collective audience, I think we are at constantly at odds with ourselves. Likes and dislikes are subjective, as is hype. It is the job of the consumer to justify their purchases and investments (even if that investment has no financial value). The “Lego Movie Excuse” is just that an excuse, as if comparing two unlike things can determine their unique outcomes. But its human nature I guess. I don’t personally like the “Lego Movie Excuse”, but I like what, I think, it represents stay positive and wait for the final product before a final judgement is given.

    • Rachel Wagner

      Very well said and you make a valid point about waiting until you see the final product. I guess there needs to be balance between calling out bad ideas and leaving room to be surprised.

      • Ryan Prieto

        Could not agree more. I have to constantly tell myself to not feel that tiny bit of aggression that accompanies the moment the entertainment business does something I don’t approve of. I think as fans, myself included, get entitled to these properties and companies we become fond of. I am always looking for that “balance” you speak of. Although I find it so much easier to fly off the handle and spew my very unneeded opinions everywhere.

        • Rachel Wagner

          That’s what makes the internet so dangerous!

  • Manuel Orozco

    The Lego Movie isn’t the best thing that has ever happened to Hollywood but it was a cool movie for sure. My favorite animated film from 2014 has to be Big Hero 6! I’m super excited about the Lego Cinematic Universe (if that is what we can call it) including Lego Batman. The animation has a rare astonishing quality found in today’s cartoon industry. Everything is still AWESOME two years later.

    • Rachel Wagner

      I’m really excited for Lego Batman as well!

      • Manuel Orozco

        It’ll probably end up just as good as the last time we’ve seen this version of the Caped Crusador.

        • Rachel Wagner

          It certainly looks better than this year’s Batman movie…

          • Manuel Orozco

            Actually I’m not expecting Lego Batman to be that great.

          • Rachel Wagner

            Oh I cant wait for it!

          • Manuel Orozco

            It’ll be enjoyable regardless

    • I just picked up the 3D version of the movie and it is great. It works very well on a 3D TV.

      • Manuel Orozco

        I went to see the movie in 2D on opening weekend. I wasn’t excited enough for 3D

  • This. So much this. I don’t want to be that guy who judges something before I’ve seen it, but we have seen a whole slew of films get put into production that sound like the literal worst ideas ever. I am completely willing to be proven wrong, but the Playmobile Movie sounds like a horrible, not-even-the-least-bit-subtle, ripoff of the Lego Movie, and the Emoji Movie sounds almost as bad. There is no way that any of these films will succeed at all unless they somehow have everything that the Lego Movie had. Sometimes I wonder if these big-shot executives that green-light these things even think about what they’re doing. Anyone with half a brain could tell you that the Lego Movie’s popularity had nothing to do with the popularity of the toys it was based on, it was the writing and the story. Without those, the emoji movie, the Playmobile Movie, the app movie, and whatever else they dream up in a cheap attempt at a cash-grab, is doomed for an utterly dismal failure.

    • Rachel Wagner

      Yeah it shows they dont understand why Lego Movie works. It didnt really have anything to do with Legos

  • That whole thing about something can be good from how well it’s written earned my respect. I’m hoping to become a screenplay writer for animation so this means a lot to me.

    • Manuel Orozco

      Cool! What ideas do you have for an animated movie?

      • Well, I had this for a while about a female knight who lives on a continent where all the fairy tale characters retired to after their stories were told and she has to fight an evil that is keeping her kingdom barricaded by a thorn wall.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Interesting

          • Thank you.

          • Manuel Orozco

            You go for your dream! Maybe you’ll win an award as long as your screenplays get noticed by critics.

        • Alan Wilcox

          well QA if your screenplays are rejected then maybe you could turn them into kids books

  • I really love the message of the film and also how it was a great feel kind of movie for kids, not my favorite but I know its a very great film for many reasons
    But seriously siked for the Lego Batman movie, IT LOOKS AMAZING!

    • Rachel Wagner

      I can’t wait for Lego Batman. It looks hilarious!

  • AnimatedMadness

    Unfortunately, movies that are successful tend to end up with other movies trying to go the same route, just to earn some money from having the name of a license attached or trying to follow a similar formula. After “Toy Story” came out and proved hugely successful, people started churning out computer-animated movies. Soon, people started throwing garbage onto store shelves to make a quick buck because the production seems similar to movies that were out in theaters or hadn’t even arrived in theaters yet (The Asylum, I’m looking at YOU). This practice runs ever rampant today.

    It’s at it’s worst today because Hollywood is desperate to earn billions. Wreck-It Ralph saw success. We ended up with Pixels. The Lego Movie blows box office preditions out the window. Now people are trying to shove Playmobil, Pez, Emoji, and God only knows what else into theaters in the near future.

    I wish more movie makers knew what common sense is.

    • Rachel Wagner

      That is very true. Pixels is such a good example. It’s like I say- that’s why we can’t have nice things is they get ruined by copycats and we should call the studios out on it. Still be open minded to projects but a little skepticism is a good thing.

      • Andrew Alderson

        Hopefully that film would be in the top list of the worst films ever made. (Thank God, I had never seen the film.)

        • Rachel Wagner

          I don’t know if I would go that far but it definitely made my worst of 2015.

          • Andrew Alderson

            And I Have seen the moviebob review of this atrocity a year ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFD2293oGvA

          • Rachel Wagner

            It’s not good but I’ve seen much worse from Adam Sandler alone like Jack and Jill- Kill Me Now

  • I always thought the film would be good but then I already loved Lord and Miller.

    But the excuse doesn’t work.

    If it was used in regards to a new Lord/Miller film then it would.

    And like the article points out it was strong writing that gave the film the elevation needed to escape gimmick.

    Like George Clooney said: “You cannot make a good film out of a bad script. You can make a bad film out of a good script”.

    Writing is one of the most important aspects and that’s why a story focussed studio like Pixar has had such a good record.

    Great article by the way.

    • Rachel Wagner

      Thanks. Amen to everything you said

  • Baymax

    Funko Rotoscopers!

    • Ryan Prieto

      These are adorable, and pretty spot on, especially the Mason.

      • Baymax

        thank you 🙂

  • Trev

    Lol, what? So we shouldn’t use ‘The Lego Movie’ as an example of why we shouldn’t judge a movie by it’s source material? You can make a good movie, or a bad movie, based on anything. The source material does not matter. What’s important is what the filmmakers do with the material.

    To quote Roger Ebert, “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”

    • Rachel Wagner

      Fair point but I do think it can be lazy excuse. Lego Movie was special for a lot of reasons and the excuse feels like it discounts many of those factors.

  • Aaron S. Montalvo

    Well, this Lego Movie is the only film based on toys that critics didn’t have a grudge on and they loved it unlike films like Transformers, G.I. Joe, Battleship, Ouija, Masters of the Universe, Bratz, Jem and the Holograms and this year’s Max Steel.

    • Rachel Wagner

      I think those movies are all bad movies more than critics having a grudge against them. That was the whole point of my article. What Lego Movie did was special

      • Aaron S. Montalvo

        “What Lego Movie did was special”

        Maybe because it was accurate to the toys due to its focus on them, as well as how the film was written.

        As for the Ouija prequel, it recently becomes an exception due to its positive reception, despite not being based on toys unless people count board games as toys. And that is because of how Mike Flanagan’s storytelling of supernatural horror works with a board game and how it prevented Michael Bay from ruining it.

  • Yes, there is a sequel coming out.