‘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 is a rottentomatoes approved film critic and podcaster. She loves all things animation and does a monthly podcast on classic Disney films and on obscure animation at Rachel's Reviews. She also is the founder and lead host of The Hallmarkies Podcast. She grew up with mainstream classics like The Little Mermaid and The Simpsons but also loves indie and anime fare like Song of the Sea and Your Name. Most important to her is discussing all kinds of film and TV shows with her friends and all of you. Follow Rachel on twitter at @rachel_reviews and on her blog rachelsreviews.net