The Lego Movie looks like a transparent marketing ploy, but there’s more to it than that. It is surprisingly good. (So is The Lego Batman Movie, but reportedly The Lego Ninjago Movie isn’t.)
The Lego Movie is chock-a-block with jokes, only some of which are of the unsubtle variety, but it has a message, too: we all want to feel special, and in some way or other, we probably are, if we choose to see ourselves that way.
I liked the playfulness of the script and inventiveness of the visuals in the fights and chases. I am choosing to overlook the overly didactic name of the villain.
See below for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
My beat sheet for The Lego Movie
Blinded by Lord Business, Vitruvius, a kind of hippie wizard voiced by Morgan Freeman, prophesies that an unknown hero known as “the Special” will find the Piece of Resistance and save the universe from Lord Business’ plan to use the Kragle (Krazy Glue) to end the world.
Emmet wakes up alone in his house, superficially happy for no particular reason.
You’re the most talented, most interesting, most special person in the universe.
Emmet is a normal guy who seems to derive joy from following detailed instructions for every aspect of life.
At the construction site where he works, at the end of the day, Emmet accidentally finds the Piece of Resistance, which becomes adhered permanently to his back.
Emmet is questioned by Lord Business’ minion, Good Cop / Bad Cop, about the prophecy and the Piece of Resistance, which he knows nothing about. He is rescued by Wyldstyle, an attractive rebel girl in a black hoodie that Emmet glimpsed at the construction site. Emmet really wants to be the admirable Special that Wyldstyle believes he is, even though he has always seen himself as extremely ordinary.
Break into Three
Wyldstyle, who is a master builder with expert engineering skills, builds a motorcycle from random stuff in an alley. Emmet claims to be the Special and steers the motorcycle out of Bricksburg into The Old West, narrowly avoiding Bad Cop and lots of robot cops.
Promise of the Premise / B Story
Wyldstyle takes Emmet to meet Vitruvius. The three of them enter Emmet’s largely blank mind in a scene reminiscent of one in The Matrix. Interestingly, Emmet manifests the hand of the Man Upstairs, something that usually requires intensive training. However, when prompted to create something from his imagination the way master builders do all the time, he creates the double-decker couch, which Wyldstyle furiously declares to be inane. How could Emmet possibly be the Special? He’s way less talented than she is herself!
The group gets chased across the Old West by Bad Cop, whose Good Cop face has been obliterated and whose parents have been Kragled to the lawn in front of their house to motivate him. Emmet struggles to do anything without specific instructions, but manages to help the team escape (by attaching a wagon wheel to his head). The trio is subsequently saved by Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, Batman, who takes them to meet Princess Unikitty in Cloud Cuckoo Land, a place with no rules.
Vitruvius gathers the master builders so that Emmet can give a rousing speech and lead them to victory over Lord Business, but Emmet only succeeds in convincing everyone that he is completely useless. A cyborg pirate storms off in a huff. Then, even worse, Emmet discovers that a tracking beacon attached to his leg has led Bad Cop and Lord Business’ robots to the secret meeting of master builders. When Lord Business’ robots attack, Cloud Cuckoo Land is destroyed. Almost all the master builders are captured and installed in the Think Tank, an idea-generating machine Lord Business uses to create new instructions.
Bad Guys Close in
Lord Business has a bizarrely acronymic plan to spray Kragle all over everyone and everything on Taco Tuesday, but he needs to secure the Piece of Resistance to prevent the plan from somehow going awry.
Emmet, Wyldstyle, Batman, Vitruvius, Unikitty, and Benny (a battered 1980-something astronaut) escape the robots by building a submarine, but because they didn’t work together on it, it leaks. They survive and escape Bad Cop’s notice by hiding inside the double-decker couch that Emmet built, which the others had all thought would be useless. The pirate rescues them and they make a new plan.
Emmet’s plan is, appropriately, to stop being so creative and blend in. They’ll need to work as a team, though. They will infiltrate Lord Business’ office tower by building a delivery vehicle that looks just like the others. Batman pretends to abandon Wyldstyle and the team, steals a warp drive from Han and Chewbacca’s Millennium Falcon, and returns almost immediately, interrupting the conversation Emmet was having with Wyldstyle about how Batman should have treated her better.
Benny tries to disable the security system around the Kragle, Vitruvius keeps watch over a wall, the cyborg pirate pretends to be a photocopier (two workers photocopy their butts), and Emmet and Wyldstyle pretend to be robots so Emmet can get close to the Kragle. Batman again interrupts them having a moment: Emmet, who thinks he’s going to die when the Piece of Resistance is united with the Kragle, has just learned from Wyldstyle that her name is really Lucy.
All Is Lost
Everyone not already in the Think Tank is captured. Vitruvius says that Emmet is not the Special, that he invented the entire prophecy, and that he has something important to explain. Then he dies.
Lord Business hooks Emmet up to a battery with a countdown clock. Emmet will witness the beginning of Taco Tuesday, and then he will be killed by the battery. Lord Business uses an X-acto knife to cut the Piece of Resistance off Emmet’s back and throws it out the window into a black hole.
Dark Night of the Soul
Attached to the battery, Emmet waits for Taco Tuesday and death.
Break into Three
The ghost of Vitruvius tells Emmet to believe in himself, even if the advice just sounds like a cat poster. Emmet was able to come up with some actually pretty good ideas when he thought he could, so he should try again. Emmet wiggles himself out the window and drops into the black hole. With the battery disconnected, the end of the countdown releases all the master builders from their cells; they go out to mobilize the citizens against the micromanagers that are paving the way for the Kragle. To get their message out, Wyldstyle goes to Lord Business’ television studio, where Benny operates the 1980s broadcasting system. Benny then uses its parts to build a spaceship—something he’s been wanting to do for ages.
Emmet has fallen into… someone’s basement. Now we’re not in a cartoon anymore, we’re in real life. There are a number of Lego realms displayed on hobby tables, including Emmet’s home, Bricksburg. A child is playing with the Legos. The whole story has been in his imagination. Strangely, though, Emmet is just as real as the boy. He just can’t move anymore. Or can he?
A man who bears a striking resemblance to Lord Business comes into the basement in a suit and tie and berates the boy, his son, for playing with his things, which are, supposedly, in spite of all appearances, not for playing with. It is the father who wants to Krazy Glue everything so that it cannot be changed or interfered with.
The father notices Emmet has glue on him. The boy says Emmet is the hero. The father responds by saying he’s not; he’s just an ordinary construction worker. The father takes him to the workbench and starts looking for an X-acto knife to scrape the glue off. The boy distracts his father, and Emmet, seeing a motivational cat poster with the word BELIEVE on it, fidgets himself off the table.
The boy puts Emmet and the Piece of Resistance down a magic portal tube into the room with Lord Business. The father notices all the interesting things the boy built, and realizes the villain in the boy’s story is Lord Business, someone like him, who wants to micromanage and Krazy Glue everything. Suddenly remorseful, he asks the boy what Emmet would say to Lord Business to convince him to change.
Emmet says Lord Business inspired people to get together and build things to fight for their freedom. That means he is important. In fact, he’s Special.
The father puts the Piece of Resistance on the Kragle, and the Taco Tuesday battle is over. A can of mineral spirits frees the pieces that have already been glued, and the glue is thrown away.
Emmet has friends now (even a girlfriend), and father and son are reconciled.
Duplo blocks (from the planet Duplon) belonging to the boy’s younger sister invade the basement and announce their intent to destroy Bricksburg.