The Secret of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Success
10/21/2020 • 3 min read
Phil Lord and Chris Miller could be your favorite filmmakers ever and you might even know it. The writer/producer/directors have been behind some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, from 21 JUMP STREET to SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE — which is notable because more than a few seemed like very unlikely successes, both commercially and critically. Lord and Miller make movies that stick in the mind of every kind of audience. Their best movies, which is to say most of them, are unusually rewatchable.
CONNECTED is the latest unexpected story from Lord and Miller. The story of a family that is caught up in a robot uprising, even as they're deep in their own changing reality, looks like a comedy that is full of the imagination and wit we’ve come to expect from this filmmaking duo. In case you need a refresher, here are some of their biggest films.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Lord and Miller had done one short TV series, "Clone High" before this, but CLOUDY was the first introduction many fans got to this powerhouse creative duo. It adapts a short book for children, about a guy who invents a machine that turns weather into a food delivery system. The animated movie version is funny, crazy, and weirdly substantial. It will also make you super-hungry. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS was entertaining enough to earn a sequel, but it only hinted at the creative distance Lord and Miller would travel in their projects to follow.
21 Jump Street
At this stage of their career, Lord and Miller were known for turning seemingly mediocre ideas into solid gold. 21 JUMP STREET is a perfect example. What might have been little more than an uninspired remake of a television show is now a comedy classic that spawned an equally-good sequel. With Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as not-great cops assigned to stop the spread of a dangerous synthetic drug at a local high school, Lord and Miller have great stars working with a premise that is just ridiculous enough to offer endless comedy setups. Tatum and Hill go all out with both verbal and physical comedy while the script has enough heart to make us care about these two hapless cops. This movie even manages to transform a cameo from an original TV series cast member into one of the film’s best scenes. 21 JUMP STREET is very R-rated — something to keep in mind with all the family-friendly animation projects on this list — but its vulgarity is particularly imaginative. When Lord and Miller need to go hard, they can go hard, and they are surprisingly good at it.
The Lego Movie
Could all movie versions of popular toy lines be this witty, self-aware, and adventurous, please? Every single frame of THE LEGO MOVIE is bursting with humor and knowing detail. You can pause this film at any point and marvel at all the decisions that went into making every individual moment work. They're all the right decisions, from top to bottom. The story follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), a seemingly ordinary construction worker in a Lego world, who is mistaken for the Special, a fabled Master Builder. The story has deep themes that appeal to adults and children alike — a Lord and Miller specialty — along with loads of great characters, jokes, and songs.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Animated superhero movies rarely come to movie theatres and often feel as if they're treated with less of a sense of prestige than their live-action counterparts. With the success of Marvel’s current live-action Spider-Man played by Tom Holland, it was surprising to see Sony revealing an altogether different version of the hero in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. This movie did come to theatres, however, and blew up into a massive hit with lasting cultural impact — and for good reason. The story, of New York teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) who becomes Spider-Man and encounters similar heroes from other dimensions, is sharp and resonant. The animation is wild and inventive, as it imports ideas from comic books, video games, and other media. As with THE LEGO MOVIE, all the elements came together to make INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE the kind of film that viewers who are kids now will eventually show to their kids in the future. Yes, the sequel is coming. Just hold your horses. That ground-breaking animation takes time.
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All images courtesy of Sony Pictures,.