Wednesday, 9 April 2014
FILM OVERVIEW: THE LEGO MOVIE AND MUPPETS MOST WANTED
The kid's movies these Easter holidays -- The LEGO Movie and Muppets Most Wanted -- could very well prove to be a case of parents dragging their offspring along to see them. Both films tap so strongly (and deliberately?) into the childhoods of generations X and earlier, that the wee youngsters may be at a loss as to explain what they're doing there. While both films are satisfying family entertainment, there's a lot more going on for the grown-ups in attendance.
Not that the colour and movement of The LEGO Movie (now showing; Roadshow Films) won't keep the little ones transfixed for the majority of its running time. But this ode to, and yes, commercial for, those coloured building blocks which inspired many a child's imagination (and were the bane of every parent's bare foot), has such a playful and, at times, cynical sense of humour that there may be a lot of "what's so funny?" asked of the parentals. (And as it's directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, responsible for 2012's 21 Jump Street and its upcoming sequel, you may be grateful that's all they're asking!)
The plot -- concerning a prophesized MasterBuilder who will end the evil reign of Lord/President Business (Will Ferrell), and the work-a-day chump, Emmet (Chris Pratt), who is mistaken for said chosen one -- may just be a delivery service for such homilies as believing in yourself and being creative, but it's the journey, the detours and asides, which are the real fun of The LEGO Movie, and not the borderline saccharine third act.
And the voice cast -- Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, as well as Pratt and Ferrell -- make that journey a delight. Banks' kickass Wyldstyle, disappointed to learn she's not the MasterBuilder in spite of her being more than capable than all her male counterparts; Freeman mocking both the wizened old man cliche as well as his own all-knowing ubiquitous voice-over work; and Arnett's rather douche-y Batman who's really only interested in looking out for number one.
The LEGO Movie may not be as awesome as Tegan and Sara's super-infectious theme song suggests (just try getting it out of your head!) but it's pretty darn good.
Void of the nostalgia which made much of The Muppets (2011) such the pleasure that it was (particularly for a certain segment of the audience), Muppets Most Wanted (opening April 10; Walt Disney Studios Films) still manages to be good fun; recalling the more plot-driven caper films of Kermit and the gang in the 1970s-early '80s.
Picking up immediately where The Muppets ended, the gang ask themselves "where to now?" with the obvious answer being a sequel. Cue a song (again written by Oscar winner, Bret McKenzie) about the pitfalls of sequels, the introduction of two bad guys, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) and Constantine, and a whirlwind tour of Europe where, by sheer coincidence, the theft of ancient artifacts occurs on every stop on The Muppets' tour.
Of course, it's not coincidence. Constantine is a master criminal who also happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Kermit. That is, other than his strong Slavic accent and the mole on his face; the latter covered by green concealer and the former seemingly ignored by the rest of the gang when Constantine assumes Kermit's identity and control of the tour (Kermit having been mistaken for Constantine and sent to a Russian gulag).
One of the driving forces behind The Muppets' big screen return in 2011, actor-writer Jason Segel, is noticeably absent this time around but writer-director James Bobin returns to bring the fun and frivolity, if not the big time yucks or the teary eyes which the nostalgia-filled reboot effortlessly elicited.
And while Bret McKenzie's songs aren't as clever or instantly memorable this time around -- there's no Life's A Happy Song or Man Or Muppet -- you'll still find the lo-fi disco beats of I'll Give It To You hard to shake from your mind. And Tina Fey's gulag commandant singing Welcome To The Big House should have more than a few mums and dads flashing back to video clips of the 1980s.
The cameos for cameos sake (James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Lady Gaga, that guy from Dowton Abbey) may not work to the film's advantage but the somewhat old fashioned sense of fun and silliness is more than enough to get the young and the young at heart chuckling, occasionally LOL'ing, and exiting the cinema with a warm grin if not a big smile plastered across their face.
What more could you want these Easter holidays?