Review: Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers (2010)

“Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers” is less like a movie – the first Lego movie ever, so says the cover art – and more like a half-commercial, half-first chapter in some endless CG cartoon universe. I could easily see Clutch and his team signing up for a regular Saturday morning adventure. Indeed, the movie itself is so disjointed, it feels like several cartoons pasted together.

Worse, the script reads like bad Lego fan fiction. (Ya know, I wouldn’t doubt that there’s Lego fan fiction floating around out there in the darkest corners of the internet.) Scene after scene features strange diversions where characters discuss building things from Legos. In one sequence, a bridge troll challenges the hero to a mental Lego puzzle, dialogue given to bricks of certain shapes and sizes, the insider lingo of the most serious of Lego fanatic. It’s as if we’ve wandered into the middle of a Lego convention.

Clutch’s world – his whole universe, actually – is made entirely of Lego, except for the trees and rocks and water, which are organic, but whatever. There are jokes about Lego people popping off their Lego hair, or losing their Lego arms, or using Lego instruction manuals to build and rebuilt everything around them. (Even the floors are made of Lego, although the Lego people never seem to get stuck on them.) All of this would be cute and clever were it not for the overbearing sales pitch of it all: look what Clutch can do with Lego!

Clutch himself (voiced by Ryan McPartlin) is, supposedly, an Indiana Jones type, braving the darkest corners of the Legoverse for riches and glory. We also learn that his father went missing some time ago, which is basically an excuse for the script to toss us worn-out dialogue about how he lives “in your heart,” etc., etc. There’s no resolution to this plotline beyond that, however; a father-son reunion is put off until the inevitable sequel/TV series, which is certainly in the works, considering the movie’s “off to more adventure!” ending.

The hero barely even gets the majority of screen time. He’s teamed up with a trio of bickering cohorts: a sassy Aussie gal, a pompous American muscleman, and a nerdy German scientist. They all behave badly so the script can slowly – very, very slowly, and very, very redundantly – teach us lessons about working together and getting along, the usual kiddie cartoon moralizing. They also push Clutch off to the edges of the story. You could probably edit him out completely and not change much of the second half of the film.

They’re off to investigate a distress call from the Space Patrol’s prison planet, and in their arguing and bumbling, they end up allowing three dangerous criminals to escape. The movie ignores the first two and keys in on the third: a mad wizard named Mallock the Malign (Stephan Cox). Tracking him down takes him away from the outer space lineup of Lego toys and into the medieval lineup of Lego toys, with some subplot featuring a prince needing a magic sword to rally his people, or something.

The screenplay (by Tom Rogers, who previously helped pen many of those awful Disney sequels) bounces around with the worst kind of ADD; instead of a coherent story, we get a long collection of location ideas and bad jokes. Cheap slapstick and painful one-liners abound, and the script eventually gets so cluttered, it hardly has room for its titular star, sidelining him often so we can get jokes about the German scientist admitting his love for the Aussie gal.

It’s not even focused enough to be awful. “Clutch Powers” is just sort of there, bland kid-friendly noise that stops once in a while to deliver a bad joke or a weak action sequence. Clutch’s only character trait is that he’s really fast at building things with Legos, which is lame enough without the extra insult of having this not really matter beyond one or two “funny” scenes.

I suppose parents would not expect anything more from a Lego movie, but it’s a shame the filmmakers took that as an excuse not to try anyway.

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