Forgotten Favorites: Gremlins (1984)

gremlins-movie-poster-1984-1020496735When Todd over at Forgotten Films invited me to join his next blogathon, which was set to be 1984-themed, I knew exactly what film I wanted to write about: Gremlins. Directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, Gremlins is really a strange film in a lot of ways; it is nearly impossible to categorize because it is unlike anything else. It is also a movie that I’ve loved since childhood. That, in itself, is a loaded and interesting claim to make– is it a kids movie? No, not really. But it’s also not mature enough to be not for kids, if that makes sense… Truth be told, the film is the one of the most uproariously and outrageously fun and refreshingly eccentric blockbusters partly because it is so unique. It straddles a fine line that no other film had yet straddled in 1984, of course; for those who may not be aware, what I am trying to say with this cryptic analysis of the film’s tone and intended audience is simply that Gremlins is the movie that gave rise to a whole new rating: PG-13. Upon its release, the film was rated PG because R was a bit much– understandably so, for a movie about cute, cuddly creatures (even though they do not remain so cute and cuddly). But many parents felt PG was too soft– again, the creatures are anything but cute and cuddly for a solid portion of the film, and besides their now-creepy aesthetic, their bad behavior is laced with mischievous double entendres perhaps not suitable for children under 13.

While I often try to reserve a little space in my Forgotten Favorites features to discuss something slightly outside the film itself, I feel I’ve already digressed enough about the MPAA and if I go any further, this may devolve into me venting about the issues I have with said rating system. Needless to say though, this film was really more important than it ever seemed like it would be. I mean, there may be some deeper commentary going on (but just barely– much of the critique of consumerism is left for the film’s even zanier 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) but overall, this is just a thrilling popcorn flick that flings you giddily, almost violently, through a number of emotions and reactions with every bit of hijinks that ensue.

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These hijinks (and the hilarity and minor scares that come with them) all begin when Billy (Zach Galligan) is given a pet who comes with three very specific rules for taking care of him. The pet is a gremlin, specifically the lovable Gizmo (voiced by none other than Howie Mandel). The rules are as follows: don’t feed him after midnight, don’t get him wet, and no bright lights. All three are eventually, and inadvertently, broken, causing Gizmo to reproduce and spawn evil, green, reptilian counterparts– evil gremlins, if you will, who wreak havoc on Billy’s small town. They’re more like punk-rock pests than they are mini-Godzillas of any kind, but they are genuinely horrifying as well as being genuinely humorous in their actions.

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The film is popcorn fodder at its best and brightest– smart but also undeniably silly. Almost every way in which the evil gremlins frighten the townsfolk is meant, above all else, to make us laugh, but there’s something else about this film that is fun… A kind of glee in feeling disgusted by and even a little bit scared of these fictional monsters, who are so destructive and so comical.The movie is and always will be one of my all time favorites. I was the kind of kid who was into horror movies and all things ghoulish, but as a kid, you still want there to be humor and a sense that this is just too preposterous to ever be real (although I’m sure most kids, like myself, wanted a Gizmo of their very own and would swear to never break any of the three rules).

And yet, as a young adult, the film still holds up, nostalgia not withstanding. It has moments that might go over a child’s head (hence the need for that parental guidance). And the visual effects that went into creating these evil gremlins are actually quite creepy and thus gloriously effective. It is for all these reasons and more that the film doesn’t seem overly corny or outdated even today; imaginative and endlessly enjoyable to watch, Gremlins is one of the great unexpected, oddball/black sheep treasures of popular cinema. Its legacy as such has lasted this long and won’t be fading anytime soon, as far as I’m concerned.

For all the other wonderful posts from the blogosphere that Forgotten Films will be sponsoring and promoting as part of his 1984-a-thon, I encourage you to click here and marvel in the awesomeness of that year in film. Thank you all for reading and to Todd once again for letting me revisit a film that I love so much. 

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Review: Holy Motors (2012)

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Director: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 appointments. This film is irresistibly outrageous, chillingly elusive, and strangely beautiful. Like no other film I’ve yet seen, it is the closest cinematic equivalent to dreaming– it is an often inexplicable, multi-layered experience filled with complexity, mystery and surreal visual splendor and a subconscious sense that there are symbols and messages, which you can only really start to work through after you first wade through the trance-like film. It is, therefore, a truly powerful and unique film experience– one that shakes you out of your complacency but somehow still takes you for one hell of a ride.

First, let me just say that I wasn’t sure initially how or in what capacity to write about this film, since it was released two years ago this fall (therefore this isn’t a review of a new film so much as perhaps a recent classic) and because it is a film that seems to deserve some greater exploration, so we’ll see what I can feasibly address and unpack in this space. Denis Lavant stars as Monsieur Oscar, a man whose nine “appointments” over the course of 24 hours dictate that he play that many, if not more, different characters.

He is transported via limo from one to the next and he spends the time in between locales and identities preparing for them in the backseat, which appropriately looks more like a dressing room on wheels (replete with masks, wigs, costumes and props). With each appointment, Lavant transforms himself completely, not merely in terms of aesthetics but also demeanor, posture, purpose– it is impressive, intriguing and almost scary to behold. Each segment flows fluidly from one to the next, even as different as they may seem in tone and even genre. But the film never feels like an anthology so much as a crazy journey through surreal Parisian locales and absurd disguises and various stories that feel real and related no matter how unrelated and unreal they actually are, and we never for one second know for sure just where we are going, and that is half the fun. 

The film is anything but typical, and its non-narrative, almost avant-garde sensibilities are reminiscent of a new French New Wave, or rather, Carax’s very singular stylistic tendencies that come across as a kind of mad man’s poetry. Each sequence has its own grotesque and lovely attributes in equal measure– even those that turn particularly violent or seem the most toned down. Every moment seems equally on the precipice of two extremes, or combines them in ways that seem unlikely if not totally impossible: beauty and horror.

As for specific scenes, this is not an easy film to understand and likewise, it is not an easy one to describe– one character Lavant portrays is a horrid, flower-eating, model-kidnapping troll so inhuman that it is hard to believe Lavant can so effortlessly become an innocently dying old man in a slow, poignant later scene. The whole film seems like it may be about performance itself, and about cinema at large– Carax is featured in the first scene of the film, as is an audience at a movie theater, and the film is effectively punctuated also by soundless scenes of cinema’s earliest experiments. The film as a whole then feels much like an experiment or an exercise; it feels like a wonderfully chaotic cacophony that somehow makes sense even for all of its nonsense, and it feels like it means something even if we cannot discern exactly what that thing is. And honestly, I feel like the film wouldn’t be quite as magical if the destination was more meaningful (or understandable) than the wonderfully unpredictable process by which we get there.   

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Awesome Mix cassette tapes for this awesome movie that has broken box office records for August releases and whose praise is well deserved. This movie is thoroughly entertaining and doesn’t ever take itself too seriously, making it a refreshingly daring endeavor– not only where Marvel’s cinematic canon is concerned but also with regard to our current landscape of superhero films that often veer toward the dark and brooding and formulaic. Boisterous and irreverent, this film also serves as a big, brazen and sometimes bawdy science-fiction flick whose sense of humor, scale and scope are reminiscent of Star Wars– and it’s truly a testament to the quality of this movie that I’m not the first or only person to assert such a claim.

Guardians of the Galaxy was one of my most highly anticipated films of the entire year, and definitely my most highly anticipated film of the summer, and it did not disappoint. Its complex story is sorted out and propelled forward by its charismatic cast and grounded in an otherwise strong script. The band of misfits include Peter Quill/Star Lord, played to comic perfection by Chris Pratt, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced hilariously by Bradley Cooper), and the lovable standout Groot (whose oddly emotive three-word line “I am Groot” was brought to life by Vin Diesel). They’re brought together by greed, theft, and revenge when a mysterious orb is stolen– everyone wants it or wants to sell it, but why?

The answer lies in Lee Pace’s hammy, over-the-top, power hungry villain, Ronan. After some brief and ever so slightly convoluted exposition concerning a peace treaty and interstellar genocide, we realize that with the possession of this orb, Ronan can fully defy said treaty and destroy whole worlds. So needless to say, a zany, action-packed manhunt begins when these mismatched companions are finally given a chance– a chance to give a shit.

The film is intensely watchable– it is colorful, loud, smart, funny, exhilarating and always offbeat, even when it does follow a formula of sorts. Guardians of the Galaxy is also an underdog story with a particularly ballsy tone, and in a way, it is masquerading as an epic space saga, but the masquerade works incredibly well and it is, above all else, a ton of fun to watch.

Further, the galaxy in question is fascinatingly intricate but it is also quirky and imperfect– this is not a science-fiction story or comic book adaptation whose concerns are merely black and white, good and evil. I think what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so great is that it explores the very vibrant middle ground, in which good and bad coexist, particularly within each individual member of this motley crew, and where there also exists the strange and the silly in grandiose measure.

Even with all the heroism and sentimentality to be had as the film barrels toward its conclusion, nothing ever feels cheesy, or if it does, it does so with full awareness, and our heroes still exhibit a ragtag kind of chemistry no matter how valiant they have proven themselves to be, as individuals or as a team.

The performances are wonderful, the special effects are all consistently dazzling, and there are innumerable opportunities to laugh out loud– Groot and Rocket are notably amusing, though Drax has his moments too (especially when it comes to metaphors) and Pratt proves himself to be a dynamic lead by perfectly balancing heartache and a goofy brand of cockiness as Quill/Star Lord, effortlessly combining those facets at times, singing and dancing to distract his enemies.

Speaking of singing, I clearly cannot sing the praises of Guardians of the Galaxy enough. After all, in what other sci-fi/comic book movie would a corny classic pop soundtrack work so well to establish tone and to partially drive certain aspects of a plot about alien lands and unlikely saviors– saviors that include a genetically engineered raccoon and a walking tree who has a limited vocabulary, no less? The answer is, you won’t quickly, or perhaps ever, find a film like Guardians of the Galaxy– in this or in any other respect. It is not simply a successful film, but it is also truly special.

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Review: Mood Indigo

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Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy, Gad Elmaleh
Rating: 4 out of 5 water lilies. It took me a while to invest in the story that Mood Indigo is trying to tell, because for a short while, there wasn’t much of a story to be gleaned– with no immediate context to better understand its eccentricities, and seemingly little substance beneath all the beautifully strange fluff, we are initially left with nothing more than Gondry’s usual visual splendor. However, once that characteristically hypnotic, hallucinogenic quality finally became emotionally grounded in something resembling a narrative, I grew to really love this film, even if I am still trying to fully understand and unravel it– whimsical and surreal, this is a love story for the absurdist in all of us, and leaves much open to interpretation, for better and for worse.

Mood Indigo begins with (and continues to be punctuated by) people writing the tale we’re about to see, operating a consistently-moving conveyor belt of typewriters. The tale itself takes place in an ultra quirky version of Paris, where Gondry’s special brand of fantasy can be found everywhere. Colin (Duris) is a comfortably wealthy, lazy bachelor who soon wishes to fall in love like his cohorts Chick (Elmaleh) and wonder-chef Nicolas (Sy) have. Other than that, there isn’t much of a central conflict until perhaps later; this early portion of the film is solely consumed by its wondrously distorted, playful, odd imagery– so consumed in fact that it almost seems too indulgent and downright excessive, lacking purpose.

But, I soon found myself charmed by the film anyway, especially because Gondry’s stylistic flair eventually seems be in service of some greater messages or themes. Colin meets Chloe (Tautou) at a party and they embark on a beautiful but ultimately doomed romance– Chloe contracts a kind of cancer, or as it translates to in this film: a water lily growing inside her lung, the only treatment for which is to be surrounded by other flowers. Meanwhile, Colin’s funds are steadily depleting and the once cheery setting develops time-lapsed cobwebs and takes on an even more distorted shape, as well as an overall darker, bleaker tone and color palate to match. The film even ends in black and white, and the gradual transition proves really quite moving.

The more we see and hear of the tale’s mystery writers– including a jarring scene in which they have to pull Colin himself away from the typewriters as he tries futilely to re-write what seems to be his unfortunate fate– the more the film seems to be about the very idea of predestination. The film being based on a novel in the first place, authors and authorship seem to be major motifs as well, and the idea that these authors are actually writing our stories instead of us becomes more and more apparent– and a whole lot more chilling and thought-provoking– as the film progresses.

While the film does end on a far more depressing note than it begins, the shift is nevertheless effective– we are no longer necessarily questioning the film’s zany accents but rather looking deeper, not merely accepting the film’s surrealism at face value then but finally understanding it as a mode of expressing somewhat greater concerns of destiny and control, fantasy and reality.

Forgotten Favorites: Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

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For this edition of Forgotten Favorites, I’ll be reviewing and discussing Buffalo Soldiers, a film from 2001 directed by Australian filmmaker Gregor Jordan. I’d never seen or even heard of it before today. It was on Showtime On Demand, and while watching, I looked up some fascinating trivia about the film– trivia that could help explain why it was forgotten.

Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9th, 2001, the events of 9/11 just two days later pretty much destroyed any distribution potential in the US. Two years later, during a Q&A following a screening of it at Sundance, a woman verbally attacked the film and accused the filmmakers of being un-American, even going so far as to throw a plastic water bottle– aiming for the screen, but instead hitting an elderly man in the head, because that is more American somehow, isn’t it? From there, the film was only released in the US in a limited run later that year. The first theatrical release of the film was actually in Germany in 2002. Pretty interesting stuff, if you ask me.

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And I guess I could see why someone would come to such an accusation, but I can’t say I agree with hating a film for yielding such potential interpretations. After all, the film feels refreshingly and bitingly honest in its cynicism, and it is well-acted and entertaining. The problem is that people just don’t like to admit to or bear cinematic witness to any possible corruption, purposelessness, drug-addiction, boredom, greed and useless violence that may or may not have really transpired among at least certain American troops at certain times and in certain places. The time and place of this film is a US Army base in West Germany in 1989– just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was this premise that drew me to the film initially, and it was the trivia surrounding it that drew me in, but it was the story and even more so the execution which ended up hooking me for me good.

The plot revolves around Ray Elwood, played by Joaquin Phoenix. He and his fellow soldiers are not merely bored, they’re also fairly unenthusiastic about being soldiers in the first place, and we know as viewers that their training was all for nothing anyway, particularly as the Cold War is coming to a close (before ever heating up). The only thing Elwood seems even remotely driven by is his heroin-cooking and selling, and he and the rest of these men are all involved as buyers, sellers and/or users in a criminal subculture that surely does make these Americans look irresponsible, spoiled and at times foolish. One notable scene is when a tank barrels through a German town, causing all kinds of needless destruction that is both devastating and comic at the same time, all because the men operating the tank were high to the point of stupidity.

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Anyway, when a sort of rivalry– equally rooted in American male hubris and aggression, and militaristic status– begins between the strict, stern and unforgiving Sergeant Lee (Scott Glenn) and Elwood, Elwood decides to court Lee’s daughter, Robyn (Anna Paquin), out of vengeful spite. But Robyn and Elwood soon fall for each other. And with a massive order of heroin to make, tensions continue to rise from all these various origins until the ironic ending. The film’s conclusion, without giving too much away in terms of content, is so cheery, so devoid of any character’s maturation, growth or change and only confirming a willful stubbornness instead, that the message that comes across to us is alternately skeptical and bleak, accentuated by a Nietzsche quote about there always being a war somewhere.

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Genre and tone are everything when it comes to any kind of war movie, I think. Based on a novel, this film is satirical and turns the American’s involvement in the Cold War’s final moments into a joke. I am, however, in no way against that. In fact, the film was immensely enjoyable and its critique was clear without being obnoxious. Other war movies may be critical of war itself– Jarhead (2005) and The Hurt Locker (2008) might come to mind– but even those are “patriotic” in some sense, again criticizing the act of war more than those fighting it. Buffalo Soldiers took a darkly humorous approach and perhaps that is what led to its demise commercially.

But I think it is all the smarter and better for it, because it isn’t necessarily any less about war itself, especially where the Cold War is concerned– a war that was inherently tense but also understandably slow and uneventful, especially at this juncture for the Americans. The Americans act the way they do here not only because they are Americans (to whatever extent that was actually intended, if at all) but also because they were soldiers in a war they’d never actually get to fight in, everyday losing ambition except for perhaps within their black market dealings. With Sergeant Lee as a nearly sadistic Vietnam veteran though, it’s hard to say whether or not the film is suggesting that seeing actual action would have made these men any “better” after all.

I think the film begs these kinds of questions and I think it’s a shame that it was somewhat dismissed for inciting these kinds of conversations before it could ever fully do so among audiences here. As a film though, it is a hidden gem that deserves rediscovery, especially if you’re unafraid of its rough, sharp edges and feisty, fiery glow.

Redhead Temper: Revisiting My Summer TV Picks (Includes Spoilers!)

Early last month, I wrote a post about three shows I was either loving or excited to love this summer: Penny Dreadful, True Blood, and The Strain. When I’d written the post, each show was at a different point in their respective series, and they were all at different points in their seasons (one had just begun and two had not). Now, Penny Dreadful‘s short first season is complete, while the final season of True Blood is a few episodes in, and The Strain just premiered on FX this past Sunday. So, I thought (since I don’t do recaps or reviews for any TV shows besides The Walking Dead) it would be kind of fun to reassess my expectations and opinions now that we’re at that different point– how was Penny Dreadful‘s first season as a whole, what are my feelings on True Blood so far, and what’d I think about The Strain‘s pilot episode? Well, let’s find out!

First, Penny Dreadful: Okay, I would be lying if I denied that the first season of this show was a bit of an incoherent, inconsistent mess. It was incoherent and inconsistent, yes, but I loved it unashamedly. Its main strength was its Frankenstein subplot. The main flaw?: The very fact that the series’ main strength was a subplot at all and that sometimes, that subplot was sacrificed for a plethora of other less interesting, less developed and less important subplots. The show jumped around at times, while at others it seamlessly weaved together the new characters and stories with the classic, familiar ones.

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With so many things going on, the series sometimes felt confused and unfocused, not knowing what, or how, to prioritize. For example, what ever happened to the Egyptian vibe concerning the vampires? Well, not a whole lot. Vanessa is possessed in a late episode, probably one of the most gripping and genuinely scary episodes of the whole series I will add. It seemed on the one hand that she was possessed, or would become possessed if something wasn’t done to stop it, by this sort of evil Egyptian goddess entity, but then even that gets muddled when we also learn that the devil wants her to be the mother of evil and witness Ethan Chandler, played by Josh Hartnett, perform a last minute exorcism on her.

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Again– a truly creepy and intense episode, but one which raised more questions that were not yet answered, and that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. For one thing, the main storyline concerning Sir Malcom Murray’s daughter, Mina, is brought to sufficient closure; Mina is found but cannot be rescued, as Malcolm chooses Vanessa over her in a pretty climactic showdown. But, that storyline wasn’t always the most exciting in the first place. So while I do wonder what new classic literary figures will be introduced or what the new central conflict will be, the most exciting prospect for season two is, again, the Frankenstein arc, which looks like it’ll include the creation of the creature’s bride. So, no it’s not a perfect series, but the best parts of it are truly great and even the flaws are still intriguing exercises in Gothic-hodgepodge-horror.

Next, the final season of True Blood: I’ve been hearing less than positive things from fans about this final season, but I can’t say I agree with all the anti-hype. In fact, all the negativity is somewhat making me wonder, are we watching two completely different shows here? I am loving this final season, even though it is not without its usual flaws. Mainly, I think it is nostalgic in all the right ways. It has so far proven to be a reasonably fun, relatively shocking and acceptably action-packed season filled with funny-haired flashbacks and hyper-stylized fight scenes.

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I love that Anna Camp’s adorably conniving Sarah Newlin is back and that the Hep-V-infected Eric will presumably go after her for revenge as only he could– after he helps out a much jaded Sookie and the gang, of course. My only concern at this point is that the two seemingly central groups of antagonists have been eliminated within the first half of the season, and with such a quick set-up and resolution like that, what will the second half have in store? All in all though, I think for a show that has technically worn out its welcome a few seasons ago already with many fans, this season feels like a perfect way to go out– wrapping things up, killing them off, and making some kind of impact once more.

And lastly, there is FX’s The Strain: The pilot ran almost two hours long but moved swiftly and speedily through cheesy dialogue, gruesome visuals, and complicated, interweaving stories. As someone who is currently working her way through the source material(s– novels and comics), a big part of the fun for me was matching the episode to those texts, gleefully picking apart the adaptation choices and changes. Overall, the episode seemed very reverent, and it was directed by Guillermo del Toro himself.

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Many people were expecting it to be better, but I think it was exactly is del Toro intended it to be– after all, if anyone has read the books or the graphic novels, it is clear that the campy qualities and tonal shifts and shallowly-defined but still likable characters are drawn directly from those very things, as opposed to resulting from a poorly executed adaptation process. In a sense, this is Pacific Rim del Toro, not Pan’s Labyrinth del Toro– it is B- movie wonderful, part medical mystery and driven by a truly unique and mysterious and not to mention creepy approach to vampire lore. I have high hopes for the season and the series as a whole, and I’m perfectly content with the show as it is, instead of wishing it were something it never even intended or claimed to be in the first place.

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Well there you have it– a sort of recap/review of these three shows since last I talked about them on here. Perhaps if I deem necessary, I’ll write revisit this same topic yet again later in the summer. By then, I can write about whether any of my True Blood questions are answered… Or I guess I can always just reminisce about why the show has meant so much to me over the years, no matter how the series does or does not end, and to be honest, I’m not even sure if I know how I personally would prefer for it to conclude. Or maybe I’ll speculate more on whether we’ll get Jekyll and Hyde or more information about Ethan’s true identity as a werewolf in season 2 of Penny Dreadful. And it might be fun to take note of what has in fact been changed from book/comic to screen as we get further along into The Strain. Either way, I felt it was important for me to once more highlight and discuss these three horror shows all within their differing stages.

Review: The Lego Movie

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Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie
Rating: 3 out of 5 Lego bricks. I really liked this movie when it first started and had high expectations going in (based on all the positive buzz it had received when it hit theaters), and I loved the final act quite a bit as well, but in the middle stretch, I started to grow weary of its frenzied pace and its equally hyper comedic timing. It’s a very clever and ambitious animated-comedy, don’t get me wrong– but I think I was expecting to actually laugh more than I did. For me, the experience was more often a strictly cognitive recognition of humor, with the exception of certain moments that seemed more heartfelt and driven by the actual narrative, and less rushed for the sake of maintaining the film’s frantic vibe and also less burdened by the very same self-aware, jokey pretension that makes the film so smart in the first place.

And I know people will probably hate me for not loving the film as much as it perhaps deserves to be loved– again, it is smart and slick especially with regard to the very question of product placement, but there was only so much entertainment I was able to consistently find in that, somehow. And its themes and morals are particularly wonderful too (like imagination and creativity over order and control, for instance), but as far as enjoyment goes, this movie simply didn’t mesh quite as well with my sense of humor as I would have liked or hoped.

For those who don’t already know, the film tells the story of Emmet (Pratt) who, despite his bland, average every[Lego]man appearance, demeanor and profession as a construction worker, unwittingly becomes the “Special:” a figure who is meant to save [Lego] humanity by finding the piece of resistance and using it to stop Lord Business from gluing the universe into place. I loved the way objects from our human world were implemented into this fantastical Lego world, and the way our understanding of Legos as a toy was also an integral part of the tale (the piece of resistance being a cap for the dreaded “Kragle” weapon which is, in fact, Krazy Glue).

The adventure that drives the film is certainly exhilarating, but also exhausting, and I think the film works best when the jokes are subtle and referential. The film is smartest in those moments, and yet some of the other jokes seemed alternately stupid, albeit on purpose maybe, and the shifts between the two were often confusing and tiresome.

That being said, this film is good, and I’m in no way saying it isn’t. I think my expectations were perhaps too high and my sense of humor too slow, or at least it was, in a sense, too unprepared– for the brightly colored sugar-rush of gags and characters that this film builds with such a rapid and giddy fervor, a fervor that is impressive but which I often found a chore to keep up with.

So, all of those complaints being aired out now, I really want to emphasize what I did love and enjoy about this film. It was fun to pick out the many voice cameos to be had from comedians and actors both random and expected, and its main cast of voice actors treat the script with a certain kind of gravity that is, again, both endearing and also a little jarring. The film’s final act which contains a twist of sorts was my absolute favorite aspect of the film– these final scenes were creative, thrilling and emotional, and they sold me on the film as a whole, I think. I loved that the film is not devoid of lessons for its younger viewers.

The Lego Movie, like the messages it boasts, is truly special in all its hodgepodge glory and in its ability to draw inspiration from a toy and become something more innovative and meaningful, giving the Lego building blocks we all know and love a renewed creative potential. In the end, I only wish I had found the film funnier, but Miller and Lord’s other strengths are definitely still discernible in what is otherwise a visually astonishing and intelligent animated feature.