Review 2014:
One Thing:
Anna Lowman.

Film When you're invited to share something of real worth with a fine blog's readership, you probably shouldn't pick an insanely successful Hollywood blockbuster movie based on an insanely successful children's toy.

I have decided not to follow this advice and will be talking about The LEGO Movie.

So to counterbalance my complicity in the tyranny of commercialism, here is a quick list of some more spiritually wholesome things that I also recommend:

1. Somerset House

Coffee on the terrace overlooking the South Bank is a joy; the Courthauld Collection is one of London's greatest hidden gems.

2. Birds

Birds are great. Even when you're in the middle of a city, there's usually a bird or two knocking around.

3. Browsing bookshops for ages

I know I'm preaching to the converted, but now feels like a special time for books. From romance novels to political theses, they're works of art.

Of course, that's a slightly disingenuous opening, because I do actually feel that The LEGO Movie has real worth; I wouldn't be dedicating my, or your, time to it if I didn't. But as a premise, it didn't bode well - an animated kids' movie based on LEGO should be, by all rights, the pits. The fact that's it's not only not the pits, but actually funny, warm and inventive, is something to be celebrated.

What hinted at rather better things were the director/writers - Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are behind the "no, they're actually really fun" Jump Street movies - and the cast, which is essentially a who's who of American sitcoms: Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Alison Brie (Community), Elizabeth Banks (Modern Family and 30 Rock), Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and, of course, Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt as the voice of lead character Emmett.

With Guardians of the Galaxy also under his belt, this has been a fantastic year for Pratt, and his rise to more mainstream prominence has been cheered on by those of us who adore the human Labrador that is his Parks and Rec character Andy Dwyer. It's easy to forget that in the first season Andy was pretty unlikeable and selfish, and I think Pratt owes at least a little of his more recent success to that side of his personality being ditched - it's hard to see the guy who plays that Andy becoming a lovable leading man.

But I digress. For 400 words.

The fact is, a sitcom approach to gag-rate means that The LEGO Movie is consistently, impressively funny. A ridiculously strong opening sequence that sees Emmett following all the daily rules laid down by President Business (Will Ferrell) with an unthinking glee means that the film passes Mark Kermode's six laugh test within minutes, and there's no real dip over the course of the film.

And while that's a genuinely great achievement in itself (film, in the main, just isn't as good as telly at comedy), it's only one of this movie's charms.

Visually, it's genuinely like nothing else I've seen. After staying relatively tight-lipped about the animation process, Lord and Miller have recently given a little more insight into how they persuaded the audience they were were seeing real LEGO bricks, at their real size. While some bricks were used, the majority of the film is computer generated (they'd have needed billions of bricks to do it by hand) - but you'd never know it. There's weight and heft, imperfections and fingerprints. I found it astonishing.

Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is the big risk in storytelling that's taken in the last fifteen minutes of the film, and somehow got passed by a studio that must have had its qualms. I won't give the twist away of course, but it comes so late, and puts such a different complexion of the rest of the story that for a moment you find yourself thinking: "they've ruined it". Almost immediately though, it becomes clear that they haven't ruined it; they've elevated it.

The LEGO Movie isn't perfect by any means - Lord and Miller have already promised to make sure the sequel is less of a boys' club - and it won't change your life. But it was my favourite movie of 2014, and if you haven't seen it already and you're quick, it might become yours too.

Anna can be followed on Twitter @annawaits.

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