The LEGO Movie is blocks of fun

A kids' classic is built, brick by brick.

| February 07, 2014
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The LEGO Movie

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Charlie Day and Liam Neeson.

Not that they need the boost, but Legos are about to get a major popularity kick. That's because the film that bears their brand name is so inventive and funny, don't be surprised if kids are begging their parents to bring them to the toy department as soon as it sends them bouncing to a pop music beat out of movie theaters.

It may seem strange to read this about a movie whose title bears its own product tie-in, but The LEGO Movie overflows with wit, color and the genuine merriment that is derived from an honest assessment of what makes toys like Legos so much fun. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) infuse the film with a ticklish, go-for-broke style of comedy that respects the intelligence — and funny bone — of the audience. Unlike other film properties with toy tie-ins, The LEGO Movie makes the existence of Legos as toys in the audience's world an indispensable part of its plot.

Traditional Lego and licensed characters (from properties including DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, to name just a very few) converge in this fast-paced melange of galaxies. It's that crossover of unlike things that the film's chief villain, President Business (Will Ferrell), finds so objectionable, so he has made it his mission to keep the realms apart. And by extension, to stifle creativity.

Accidentally thrust into the fight against Business is Chris Pratt (Moneyball), who voices Emmet, an agreeable construction worker living in the conformist world of Bricksburg. There, he happily pays for overpriced coffee and loves a mindlessly cheery pop song called "Everything is Awesome." When Emmet accidentally comes to possess the "piece of resistance" that will stop President Business's chief weapon to install permanence, he gives hope to those fighting to stop Business and his tyrannical ways.

The quick-thinking rebel WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks) and ancient wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) initially believe that Emmet's possession of the "piece of resistance" makes him "The Special" — the one they've been waiting for to overthrow Business.

Emmet's an unlikely hero — not just because he isn't a superhero or a pirate or a ninja, but because of his perpetually sunny disposition. His everyman quality is the butt of many jokes early on before he proves himself worthy of being the chosen one — and that he can be a Master Builder who doesn't require an instruction manual.

The trio are assisted by allies like a self-absorbed Batman (Will Arnett), Spaceman Benny (Charlie Day) and Unikitty (Alison Brie). Leading Business's charge of oppression is Bad Cop (a terrific Liam Neeson), who occasionally spins his head to become Good Cop, complete with high-pitched voice.

Few aspects of Legos escape the filmmakers' humorous comment: the semicircle hands, the limited range of motion. Through computer animation, the film's animators are able to recreate the look and movement of real Lego pieces. That verisimilitude ties into the movie's third act, which takes on a Toy Story-like resonance about the joy of imagination and brings into play the mentioned but heretofore unseen "Man Upstairs."

It's in this final act that all the pieces of this ingeniously crafted movie come together.

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