All too often in the arts we pay homage the "genius" of inborn talent ahead of the time and effort that true craftsmanship requires. Last week, I attended three celebrations of craft that honored those in entertainment who labor year after year, building things brick by brick – whether those bricks be made of cement and stone, skits and songs, or preschool plastic.
The Lego Movie 4D premiere at Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida isn't getting the nifty Lego Ninjago ride I previewed at IAAPA, but the brick-based theme park did host the world premiere of The Lego Movie 4D: A New Adventure last Thursday. With Winter Haven's skies spitting rain all evening, the "interactive" red carpet – complete with confetti and fog blasts – was nearly washed out before the parade of tween TV stars (Jack Griffo of The Thundermans, Jace Norman of Henry Danger, Joey Bragg of Liv and Maddie) even arrived.
The attraction itself is a 12-and-a-half-minute 3-D film with in-theater effects like water, wind, and wind with more water; there are no animatronics, live actors or moving seats, so it's really more like 3.5-D. While the technology doesn't compete with Orlando's 4-D shows, the witty dialogue and subversive plot – Emmet, Wyldstyle and pals reunite in an evil theme park based on the first film and are enslaved by MagicBand-like bracelets – make it a worthy mini-sequel.
Most of the original cast returned, including Elizabeth Banks and Nick Offerman, with Will Ferrell's villain replaced by Patton Oswalt as his brother, Risky Business (who sounds "much less expensive"). Only Chris Pratt was recast, and the bland stand-in was glaringly obvious to the otherwise entertained kids I watched with. Their biggest reaction came during the audience participation climax, when the on-screen characters request help from the "master builders" in the theater. Join the construction crew yourself during Lego Movie 4D Weekends on Saturdays and Sundays in February for movie character meet-and-greets and fireworks.
The Humor Mill presents The Seven Year Kitsch
After hammering out their sketch comedy at the Orlando Fringe for five straight years, and then getting selected dead last in the Festival lottery twice in a row, the Humor Mill somehow made it this far without me seeing one of their full-length shows. So The Seven Year Kitsch, billed as a best-of celebrating the company's history and the capstone to their first complete season performing at Lowndes Shakespeare Center, seemed a perfect time to jump aboard.
Executive producer Kelly Rands has diligently nurtured the Humor Mill, which boldly advertises itself as "Central Florida's Premier Sketch Comedy Troupe"; I salute his steadfastness and applaud the clever conceits the company has come up with over the years. From the bickering couple (Rick Coates and Aileen Suseck, Humor Mill's strongest performers) who sing their gripes at each other to Shakespeare fans who treat Montague versus Capulet like Rams versus Jets, there are solid scene starters here.
Unfortunately, the mushy middles tend to meander, and none of the endings pay off with a big laugh; many scenes feel more like slack-paced improvs than carefully crafted scripted skits. Timing is the soul of comedy, but everything from tech cues to line deliveries felt languid and labored. Humor Mill worked overtime to entertain, but only manufactured a handful of chuckles for me.
A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
For anyone who wonders if the Harry Potter "fad" is fading, the crowds willingly waiting three hours to explore this year's expo at Universal Studios Florida are a good answer. Hopefully next year Universal will expand the overcrowded event to multiple weekends so more fans can enjoy unique experiences like the Warner Bros. Studio Tour exhibit, which featured live artists carving movie-quality wands from wood and an intimate audience with Helena Bonham Carter's disgusting dentures.
The theme of honoring craft continued in Islands of Adventure, where the Wizarding World designers' panel shone a well-earned spotlight on artisans like David Hyde, who built Diagon Alley props from defunct Jaws parts. But the weekend's biggest bow to craftsmanship came in the many tributes to Alan Rickman, the late character actor who portrayed Professor Snape. I attended Sunday's "wands up" memorial at Hogwarts Castle (organized by Neisha Mulchan Ramdat of DiverselyGeek.com) with dozens of teary, black-clad fans.
Later, during the weekend's final Q&A with film cast members, Rupert "Ron Weasley" Grint revealed that Rickman told him how to stop laughing on cue ("relax your face"), and Evanna "Luna Lovegood" Lynch shared how inspired and intimidated she was by Rickman's "commitment to his character." That's the kind of legacy any hard-working artist would be proud to build.
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