‘The Lego Movie’: Give piece a chance!

February 4, 2014

lego

I’ll admit that, during moments in “The Lego Movie,” my mouth was hanging open at the audacity and imagination of the images I was seeing.

I also found myself laughing a lot more than I thought I would.

Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who did the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” movies (I’ll forgive them “21 Jump Street”), “The Lego Movie” is a smashing-looking computer-animated comedy-adventure. It creates a make-believe world – not unlike the way a videogame world was imagined for “Wreck-It Ralph” – and gives it logic, built-in in-jokes and all sorts of possibilities. And then it capitalizes on them at every turn.

The film focuses on one of those generic little Lego figures, a worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt). He lives alone, works on a construction site and doesn’t seem to make much of an impression on anyone else around him, although he scrupulously follows the instructions about how to make friends.

The instructions: Anyone who’s ever been a kid with Legos – or a parent trying to help a kid with Legos – knows how persnickety and demanding those instructions can be. Lord and Miller get that and turn it into not just a running joke but a plot point: Can you live in this world if you think, um, outside the box? Is there a balance to be struck between following the instructions and free-styling it, using your imagination to create something of your own?

Emmet finds his ho-hum life turned upside down when he is mistaken for The Special, a master-builder who is prophesied to free Legoland from the control of President Business (Will Ferrell), whose alter-ego is the monomaniacal Lord Business. Together with his henchman, Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), he wants to give his kingdom the business – by unleashing a super-secret weapon known as the Cragl (pronounced KRAY-gull). It’s up to Emmet and his newfound sidekick Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) to stop him.

Their adventures are wild and extensive – all accomplished within the miniature world of the tiny pop-apart pieces of the little building blocks. When water runs, the water consists of tiny, translucently blue Lego pieces. When something catches fire, the flames are little plastic flames, lit and animated but still obviously meant to be the kind of small plastic accessories from the toys.

The voices – Pratt, Banks, Neeson, Ferrell (and a perfectly cast Morgan Freeman) – accentuate the action and enhance the jokes (which will reach both older and younger audiences). The action itself is fast, expansive and elaborate, without being confusing.

“The Lego Movie” is a treat: that rare early-in-the-year release that will not only amuse kids and parents alike, but let the adults keep laughing during the repeated viewings that inevitably will result when it reaches home video.

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