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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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