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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Lego Movie

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Animated characters appear in "The Lego Movie."
Any film bearing a trademark in its title, and populated by brand-name toys, is bound to fall under suspicion as nothing more than a vehicle for boosting sales of the eponymous product line.

Consider, then, the surprising accomplishment of directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ("Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs"). With their lively 3-D animated adventure "The Lego Movie" (Warner Bros.), they not only deliver a diverting eye-catcher for both young and old, they also manage to incorporate a surprisingly pointed satire of conformist consumerism into the proceedings.

A willing victim of that modern trend, ordinary construction worker Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt) blindly follows the herd in his dull hometown of Bricksburg. He buys overpriced coffee, laughs on cue at a mindless, one-joke sitcom called "Where Are My Pants?" and loves the same upbeat pop tune du jour—"Everything Is Awesome"—as everybody else.

Emmet also trusts implicitly in the local maestro of mediocrity, creativity-loathing CEO President Business (voice of Will Ferrell).

Two closely related events are destined to rock Emmet's contentedly brain-dead world, however. One is his accidental acquisition of a fabled building block called the Piece of Resistance. The other is his encounter with tough but fetching underground activist Wyldstyle (voice of Elizabeth Banks), a nonconformist par excellence for whom he instantly falls.

Based on his possession of the Piece of Resistance, for which she herself has been searching, Wyldstyle is convinced that Emmet is a prophesied hero called The Special. His destiny, accordingly, is to lead a crusade against President Business. Unbeknownst to the public, behind the scenes this evil would-be tyrant prefers the title Lord Business, and he has a scheme on foot to control the world, and purge it of all originality, using a secret weapon.

Though convinced that a mistake has been made—his total lack of the necessary qualifications soon has Wyldstyle herself expressing doubts about him—Emmet somewhat reluctantly agrees to do his best.

Joining Emmet and Wyldstyle in their struggle to topple the aspiring dictator is a ragtag team of fighters that includes Wyldstyle's self-centered boyfriend, Batman (voice of Will Arnett), and Vitruvius (voice of Morgan Freeman), the pixilated mystic who predicted the arrival of The Special in the first place.

Opposing them is Lord Business' principal minion, Bad Cop-Good Cop (voice of Liam Neeson). As his name might suggest, this police officer is both comically schizophrenic and genuinely torn between the positive and negative poles of his own personality.

Colorful and fast-paced, "The Lego Movie" sails along toward a format-shifting conclusion that adds another asset to the rich mix: a touching sequence promoting family bonds over selfishness.

Along the way, ambiguous use is made of the phrase, "the man upstairs." Some may interpret this repeated reference as suggesting that God himself—or perhaps religion—is yet another source of imposed order against which the characters ought to rebel. But those disposed to resist such a reading are given an out when the words receive a quite literal fulfillment close to the movie's wrap-up.

The film contains cartoon mayhem, some peril and a bit of mild scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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