They year 2013 was a rather haphazard year for animated films. Not a whole lot worth remembering came out and what did (The Wind Rises) was ignored. At very least, this year looks to be a slight improvement with a whole crop of promising films, including next week's How to Train Your Dragon 2. Even then, there has already been one strong possible contender for the race. One that came from the raptors singing "Everything is Awesome." Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller's The LEGO Movie has swept the world by storm as one of the year's early favorites. The only question now is if the Academy will go for it.
There's plenty to debate when discussing the Best Animated Film category in any given year. Does the Academy simply recognize American films, or is cultural diversity a must? While there seems to always be at least one slot available to foreign talents, they're usually ignored in favor of the big corporations. It is a strange point to argue, but I rarely agree with the Academy's decisions, especially in cases such as ParaNorman losing to Brave or Puss in Boots losing to Rango. There's indisputable bias every year. Even then, what's the obvious selections? Many assumed that Monsters University would make the cut last year, but didn't.
Then there is this year. While I plan to write more detailed arguments about the Best Animated Film race later, I want to focus on The LEGO Movie. With its recent release on home video, it feels like an opportune time to discuss. How did this film manage to be so successful? One of my personal detractors going in was that the toy with infinite constructs would lose appeal by making a singular narrative. As it stands, that is one of a few problems that I had with the film (the humor being another). Even then, the film has caught on with audiences and does an impressive job of subverting the techniques of your typical animated film.
Yes, the story is a little clunky and only saved by its impressive third act, but The LEGO Movie is a sleeper hit in the same way that The Croods was last year. The caveman film was met with lukewarm interest, only elevating its profile when the Best Animated Film nomination came its way. The LEGO Movie has far more significant traction and has been the most acclaimed film not only in animation, but in general so far this year. Its closest cartoon competitor? Rio 2, which nobody seems to like. This traction can help as the summer season kicks off and gets actual competitors for the film.
Of course, when discussing Best Animated Film category, there is one thing that I look for: creativity. I don't want to nominate a film that simply exists in the medium. I want the "best" to reflect innovation and desire to push the medium. It is why I love Laika Studios so much. Even if I have some opposition to The LEGO Movie's general tone, I admire its ability to turn little blocks into a full fledged narrative. The film is oozing with creativity and even comes equipped with the message of "Anyone can create."It may be done in a hackneyed manner, but there is plenty to admire about it that I am not offended by a potential nomination.
But does it stand a chance? I really think that it does. Where Frozen won this category last year by account of the competition being awful, this year at least promises to add a challenge. The expectancy to succeed is going to be more difficult. With this film already a few months old, it will need to maintain its success for another six months, which seems more than likely. Audiences are already in love with it and it was the first 2014 film to make it onto IMDb's Top 250. Admittedly, the second film to do so (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) is unlikely to get the same treatment here.
So, The LEGO Movie is at very least evidence that 2014 is a more interesting year for animated films. As evident in the above clip, there is plenty of technique in "world building" that hasn't been seen in too many other films. It may rely too heavily on familiar names of superhero characters and silly gags, but the film embraces its silly variety, and that is enough to get me to sign off. It is strange and while How to Train Your Dragon 2 or The Boxtrolls will likely be better, I do think that this film will fly on the wings of it being one of the most energetic kids movies in years. It feels like it will have the Wreck-It Ralph card going for it.
The only hope is that the song "Everything is Awesome" doesn't also get nominated. Its existence makes since within the confines of the film, but it definitely is very annoying. The faux dance sensibilities and lame lyrics are bothersome for the entire feature. I really hope that while this film is likely to be a phenomenon capable of making the Best Animated Film category, that it doesn't sneak into the Best Original Song category as well. There has to be better music. I will even take Alone Yet Not Alone getting back into the race to avoid this song getting in.
There isn't a lot to say about the film at this point other than it has succeeded a lot of people's expectations. It is likely to continue doing so as audiences catch up with it on home video. Kids will likely enjoy it and maybe that will catch on. However, my concern is that it doesn't have enough legs to win the race against How to Train Your Dragon 2, which thanks to Pixar taking a year off, is likely to be our front runner. Until then, at least we have a far more exciting race going.
Is The LEGO Movie capable of winning the Best Animated Feature category? Is "Everything is Awesome" as annoying as I think? What is the film's biggest competitor?