MOVIE REVIEW: ‘LEGO Movie’ builds solid toy story

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First Posted: 2/10/2014

Despite its marketable title, the only thing “The LEGO Movie” shills is the imagination. It’s a joyous, energizing experience. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s wonderful animated feature on the childhood staple is an invitation for everyone to color outside the lines, a goal that is not solely the domain of toy companies.

Oddly enough, where our accidental hero, LEGO man Emmet (perfectly voiced by Chris Pratt), lives is pretty bland. Everyone listens to the same music, watches the same TV show, and buys the same overpriced coffee. Yet even in this homogenous environment, Emmet lacks defining characteristics. He’s an eager-to-please yes-man who isn’t just anonymous — he’s forgettable.

When Emmet finds — and becomes stuck to — a mysterious object underneath his construction site, he’s interrogated by police and then rescued by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), an “Alias”-like “master builder.” Why all the attention? In finding this “piece of resistance,” Emmet has fulfilled a prophecy: He will lead the master builders to freedom over the evil and orderly President Business (Will Ferrell), who seeks to keep his world perfect by gluing everything into place.

Emmet joins other outcasts on a journey to stop President Business, but the real journey is how he learns to believe in himself, a frequent plot. Like they did in the terrific “21 Jump Street,” Miller and Lord, who also wrote the screenplay for “The LEGO Movie,” wring the new from the established. They make an effort to entertain you from the very start, and not just with the bright, hypnotic visuals that will have kids wondering why their brick creations aren’t flying through the living room.

“The LEGO Movie” is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. When Wyldstyle tells Emmet the important backstory, all he hears is her cooing to him. Emmet’s obstacle to Wyldstyle is, of course, Batman, a royal jerk who makes cacophonous emo music. Vitruvius, the old sage voiced by Morgan Freeman, is frequently impatient, a glorious change of pace for Freeman’s godly pipes. “That idea is just the worst,” he tells Emmet at one point.

The actors not only fit their roles — Will Arnett as the douchey Batman; Alison Brie as a super-sweet kitty who rules a world out of a Katy Perry video; Charlie Day in full-on lunatic mode as an ‘80s astronaut — they all have a blast. The movie is unstoppably fun. Even better, there’s no catch. Its message about exercising the imagination isn’t dependent on purchasing product. Lord and Miller celebrate the inspiration behind what makes the toy fun, not the toy itself. That curiosity and self-expression is in everything: music, writing, knitting, whatever. Just do something.

That’s why “The LEGO Movie” will enthrall just about everyone who sees it, especially kids. (The Sunday morning matinee I saw was teeming with families.) It shows the value of play and the value of movies. Both are the products of a mind at work, beautiful to behold when the intentions of the creators are straight and true.

Rating: W W W W

-For more of Pete’s cinematic musings, please follow him on Twitter, @PeteCroatto.