Monday, March 23, 2015

Two Short Movie Reviews: The Lego Movie and Secret Life of Walter Mitty

While flying back from California in January the person next to me was watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on her iPad. She had earbuds in so I could not hear any sound, but after watching about three minutes or so I somehow figured it out and went back to listening to my own music and writing notes about one thing or another (probably my trip summary as I was on business.)

I remember watching the original 1947 film with Danny Kaye, which was based on a short story by James Thurber, which I have also read. Thurber's piece is classic, having first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939.

The Thurber story is about a man whose mundane life is made tolerable through daydreams. The recurring "ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa" that sets Walter Mitty off into various fantasies is a feature of the original film as well.

The short story and this film starring Ben Stiller are two very different things, and you can absorb one without disturbing your enjoyment of the other. The short story is a brief (a few pages) look from the perspective of a man who enjoys fantasizing. This movie places a similar (but not identical) man in a two-hour story as he reacts to an upheaval of his work situation and experiences a lot of growth.

The backdrop for this story is the downsizing of Life magazine. Walter Mitty's job is managing the negative assets of the publication, meaning the negatives that are used to print photos that will be in the publication. A famous Life photographer has indicated that his greatest shot should be used for the cover of the magazine, but Mitty has somehow misfiled it or misplaced it. He goes on a quest to find the photographer so he can get a better clue as to what he is looking for.

It's a departure from the original story, yet charming and completely satisfying as a film.

The Lego Movie is actually an amazing film that far exceeded my expectations. When the title song was performed in the Oscars I really didn't "get it" because there was no context. Obviously anyone who has seen the film in advance would have understood the zany activities taking place on that Hollywood stage. Now I understand as well.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are cited as the screenwriters for this incredible script which sparkles with brilliance in nearly every line. It's an animated film on the order of Toy Story, which in its day connected on multiple levels with audiences. Instead of Woody and gang, we have a new generation of grown up kids who had Legos when they were little. My son had them and they were endlessly diverting.

If you had Legos in your house you will remember the little people all had yellow heads. Originally they all wore the same expression, too. They were happy. Hence the song, "Everything Is Awesome" which was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars.  Once I saw the film I was surprised that t had not gained a nomination for Best Animated Feature. Makes me wonder what made those other five so good.

The storyline goes like this: An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

There are so many incredibly clever lines in the film that it's difficult to not be impressed. And who doesn't get pumped up when their starting their day with this?

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome when we're living our dream

If you ever had anything to do with Legos, the film is a must. And even if you have not, you'll probably still find it awesome.

There's a remarkably clever twist in the story near its end, and I won't spoil it for you. It's awesome, too.

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