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Hammerle On … 'The Lego Movie,' 'The Monuments Men'

Robert Hammerle
February 26, 2014
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“The Lego Movie”

First and foremost, “The Lego Movie” is an adult film masquerading as a children’s movie. Its quality will shock you beyond meaningful description.

For starters, the characters themselves were at all times colossally funny, and this was due to the genius of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Goofy yet stylish, you end up treating them like action characters, and that lies at the center of the film’s inspiration.

However, the script by Dan and Kevin Hageman is diabolically clever from beginning to end. It is an inspirational assault on your senses that overwhelms you with a feeling of warmth. Yet while focusing on much that we hold dear in life, it also has a sarcastic edge that emasculates those in our society who hide behind a holier-than-thou masquerade.

Resisting my regrettable tendency to tell more than you need to know, the film focuses on a small Lego character named Emmet, mistakenly thought to be the savior of the Lego world. Voiced by Chris Pratt, he leads a group of crazed Lego compatriots to save their universe from being glued together by the evil tyrant President Business, voiced by Will Ferrell.hammerle-lego.jpg
Along the way our group of ornery misfits are forced to embrace a basic principle that is all but ignored in their busy society, namely that every person can be creative in their own right. They slowly learn that there is nothing wrong with smiling or lending a helping hand. While tradition is important, so is being unique.

“The Lego Movie” is about the little guy who fights back when he or she decides that enough is enough. In this process, the film barely hides a sharp criticism of the way big business controls a large portion of not just Legoland, but our own country. The villain here is known as Lord Business/President Business, a leader who wants all of society’s members to work hard while they follow a strict rule book. He is interested in doing little more than filling his own coffers, and the rest of society becomes completely expendable.

As I watched “The Lego Movie,” I couldn’t help but think of life in America today. Less than 1 percent of our citizens absorb over half of our national income, and they have succeeded in harnessing a political system that is devastating the middle class. While they fan the flames of the Tea Party, they clamor to reduce access to food stamps while refusing to help raise the minimum wage. You can almost hear them yell, “Don’t raise my taxes, little people!”

Just follow the capitalistic rule book, they say, and everything will be fine. Just ignore the fact that Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, just was awarded a multi-million dollar annual raise after his company paid gigantic fines for massive misconduct. Let’s make sure that people who receive welfare are drug tested, but don’t dare require the same thing of the wealthy who are also receiving massive benefits from the recent national Farm Bill.

What I saw from the little guys in “The Lego Movie” who refused to cave in was what I hoped to see from the residents in West Virginia who are still forced to drink polluted water. If I lived in that state, I would require every businessman and elected official to drink nothing but tap water or explain why they refuse. Come to think of it, I’d demand the same thing of those providing our drinking water here in Indianapolis.

So set aside any doubts you may have and see this movie as soon as possible. Your kids will love it even though they won’t understand it, and you will love it precisely because you do.

“The Monuments Men”

While “The Monuments Men” has been roundly blasted by critics across the country, it still is a powerful historical film. Based on the great book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel, director George Clooney gives the audience a chance to ride along with a few dedicated Allied soldiers who sought nothing more than to preserve Europe’s classic architecture and individual works of art in World War II.

Though the movie itself reveals little of the carnage of the war, it really didn’t have to. As noted by Pulitzer-Prize winner Rick Atkinson in Volume 3 of his liberation trilogy, “The Guns at Last Light,” U.S. casualties in Western Europe totaled 587,000, which included 135,576 dead. Two hundred and fifty thousand Americans laid buried in 457 cemeteries scattered across 86 countries. For an estimated 44,000 lost at sea, nothing could be done. And yet that paled in comparison with the nearly 27 million Russians killed.hammerle-monuments.jpg

“The Monuments Men” simply gives you a close-up view of some of those who risked their lives to retrieve art stolen by the Nazis. If you’ve paid attention to the recent development in Germany where more than 1,280 artworks with ties to the Nazis were recovered from the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, you know that this dramatic quest is still going on to this very day.

Here, you see Clooney’s character leading a team that was sent to various locations in Europe. Sure, when the cast includes John Goodman and Bill Murray, you know there are going to be some funny one-liners. However, to criticize soldiers risking their lives who occasionally had to laugh instead of cry is fundamentally absurd.

Rounding out the cast are Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon and Jean Dujardin, and they are all appealing. In particular, Damon stands out as the soldier working undercover in Paris to try to convince the lovely Claire Simone, played with grace and style by Cate Blanchett, to assist their cause.

I have had the experience of visiting the salt mines in Austria, Hitler’s hideaway at Berchtesgaden as well as the abominable concentration camp in Dresden. We will never forget what the Nazis did to over six million Jews, and fortunately future generations will be able to help soothe that pain with the artwork saved by the tremendous efforts of the Monuments Men.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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