Monday Movies: The Lego Movie and The Monuments Men

Lego builds the groundwork for sly family entertainment; all-star cast can't save Clooney's stereotype-laden snooze

Hollywood builds a franchise

In the old days, Hollywood created toys as an after-market tie-in to popular children’s movies. Lately, though, that trend has reversed itself as toys as diverse as Care Bears and Transformers have become icons of the silver screen. The latest to join these exalted ranks is Lego, those once-humble Danish building blocks that are now Hollywood’s newest superstars.

The Lego Movie has a formulaic plot, but one expressed with clever visual ideas and an imaginative playfulness. The story unfolds inside an elaborate Lego world where everything is run by the seemingly kindly President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). But he’s really a tyrant who hates any kind of spontaneity, and in order to ensure perpetual harmony he plans to glue the entire universe together. Luckily there’s a prophecy that a heroic mini-figure will arise as the people’s champion. Enter Emmet, an ordinary mini-figure who is mistaken for this saviour. But with the help of a rag-tag squad of rebels, the bumbling Emmet finds unexpected inner resources as he leads the charge to defeat the forces of darkness.

Although a bit less original than, say, Wreck-It Ralph, this is witty, briskly paced, and sly entertainment. With guest appearances by Green Lantern, Han Solo and Batman (voiced by Will Arnett, but channeling the growl of Christian Bale’s dark knight), there is a pop culture playfulness that helps flesh out the skimpy plot. And a live-action movie-within-an-animated-movie adds some genuine poignancy amidst all the silliness. This Lego has been well built to appeal to kids of all ages.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

(The Lego Movie continues at SilverCity, Landmark Uni 4, & the Westshore)

Not monumental cinema

Well intentioned but not well executed, The Monuments Men is a heartfelt tribute to a small squad of art and architecture experts who volunteered to go to Europe while the Second World War was still raging in order to protect centuries worth of priceless art. Mostly they were tasked with tracking down the many tens of thousands of paintings and statues that had been looted by the Nazis from museums and private collections. Destined ultimately for the massive Fuhrer Museum that Hitler planned to build in triumphalist Berlin, these treasures had been secretly stashed in several locations as the Americans and the Russians closed in on Germany’s weakening war machine.

The script is like a cross between a detective story and a remake of The Dirty Dozen with aging art nerds in place of criminals in need of redemption. It is directed by George Clooney in an old-fashioned and sometimes corny manner that relies on genial laughs and a few tear-jerking moments to win over the audience. This is the sort of movie where one of the recruits (Hugh Bonneville, commonly seen striding proudly through Downton Abbey) gets his physical examination while both he and the doctor are vigorously puffing on cigarettes. The characters are nothing more than a motley crew of stereotypes – just not the stereotypes one usually sees in war movies. And notwithstanding their wisecracking and pranks, we are to understand that these are Good Men And Brave.

The story is undeniably fascinating, and the premium cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett. Unfortunately, by the time you’ve heard the second or third speech about how important this mission is to “save all that is best about humanity,” it’s clear this is a paint-by-numbers pastiche of war films superficially tweaked with a fresh angle. Given that Clooney has directed such fine films as Syriana and Good Night, And Good Luck, this feels like a make-work project.

Rating: ★ ★ 1/2

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)
Humble Island beginnings blossomed into storied career for Trooper keyboardist

Frank Ludwig got his start as a boy pumping the organ in a tiny downtown Chemainus church

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Thomas Kuecks, Bellamy Kuecks and Paula Foot have come together to create an album of stories for children. (Nina Foot photo)
Moments with Miss Paula creates musical stories for kids

Music and the spoken word from Island pair available on streaming

Author Eden Robinson poses for a portrait during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Trickster trilogy author Eden Robinson hosts online conversation and reading

Haisla and Heiltsuk will join fans in event hosted by Vancouver Island Regional Library

Nanaimo author Lawrence Winkler’s latest book is ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa.’ (Bulletin file photo/supplied)
Nanaimo author wraps up trilogy following ‘antihero’ Island doctor

Lawrence Winkler presents ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa’

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

Most Read