The LEGO Movie

Posted by Joel Copling on February 11, 2014

With 2009's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," 2012's "21 Jump Street," and now "The LEGO Movie," writing/directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have proven quite adept at perfecting the phenomenon known as the unlikely adaptation. The first of them was upon a mostly plotless children's book, the latter (whose sequel, "22 Jump Street," is due out in June) upon a decidedly serious-minded 1980s television series. Both entities were transformed into clever comedies that hit the heart in just the right places, too. And now, a movie based around children's construction toys is moving and meaningful. Based on the evidence here, as a friend of mine said, a remake of 1986's bad-movie-favorite "Howard the Duck" from these two wunderkinds doesn't sound like a bad idea at all.

"The LEGO Movie" starts out as it only can: with Morgan Freeman's intonation of an ancient and convoluted prophecy in the voice of Vitruvius, a God-like character who informs us that the evil Lord Business (voice of Will Ferrell) will only be defeated when the great Master Builder unveils his true powers and saves the day. Lord Business, meanwhile has disguised himself as President Business, who uses not-at-all-subtle methods of subliminal messaging to target his subjects (the inhabitants of LEGO Land), even flooding the airwaves with mindless television (A show titled "Where Are My Pants?" is of great popularity for being almost brazenly pointless) and building the machines people use to vote him into office.

Enter Emmet Brockowski (voice of Chris Pratt), who is the protagonist of our story but is definitely not the Master Builder--he is certainly far from the most important or most interesting person on the planet. He is thrust, however, head-first into the thick of things when stumbling upon the Piece of Resistance after a tumble down a porthole at work. He is temporarily incapacitated and then revived by an interrogative Bad Cop (voice of Liam Neeson), whose Good Cop alter ego likes to interfere at the worst times and who wants to know why the Piece of Resistance is now permanently attached to Emmet's back. With the help of fellow Builders Vitruvius, the dark and mysterious Wyldstyle (voice of Elizabeth Banks), the bubbly-positive Unikitty (voice of Alison Brie), and many other LEGO likenesses, Emmet must up-end Lord Business' plans to use KraGle (Krazy Glue but with some of the letters scratched out) to destroy LEGO Land forever.

"The LEGO Movie" is a dazzling motion picture, brimming with some truly stunning animation, a near-constant stream of in-jokes dating back to some of LEGO's first play-thing items, and a whip-smart screenplay by Lord and Miller that doesn't once rely upon the existence of said pop-culture references to over-take the narrative's many genuinely engrossing developments. This is a real screenplay at work, rather than a checklist of entities to reference. The central premise of a Master Builder prophesied Harry Potter-style to defeat Lord Business might be a smidgen on the convoluted side, but it's engrossing and holds a few genuine third-act surprises.

But ultimately "The LEGO Movie" reveals itself as more than merely a good-vs.-evil allegory (or would that be an "alLEGOry?"); it's about the innocence of playthings when measured against adult-minded collectorship, no more so than in a final homestretch that might seem like the gimmick to end all gimmicks but, given time for consideration, proves altogether moving and meaningful. That a motion picture titled "The LEGO Movie" could be emotionally compelling at all is a miracle; that one of those moments involves Unikitty's failed attempt to cheer herself up during the destruction of her world (involving thoughts of pretty things and, I'm sure, cupcakes) highlights the depth to which "The LEGO Movie" goes to show us a world and characters meticulously established. Bring on a sequel!

Film Information

Will Ferrell (The Man Upstairs), Jadon Sand (Finn).

Featuring the voices of Chris Pratt (Emmet Brockowski), Elizabeth Banks (Lucy/Wyldstyle), Will Ferrell (Lord Business/President Business), Will Arnett (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop), Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius), Alison Brie (Unikitty), Nick Offerman (Metal Beard), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Channing Tatum (Superman), Cobie Smulders (Wonder Woman), Will Forte (Abraham Lincoln), Charlie Day (Benny), Dave Franco (Wally), Jake Johnson (Barry), Todd Hansen (Gandalf), Jorma Taccone (Shakespeare), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Keith Ferguson (Han Solo), Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq), Melissa Sturm (Gail/Ma Cop), Graham Miller (Duplo), Keegan Michael-Key (Foreman Jim), Kelly Laferty (Lord Business' Assistant), Christopher Miller (TV Presenter), Craig Berry (Blake).

Directed and written by Miller and Phil Lord.

Rated PG (mild action, rude humor).

100 minutes.

Released on February 7, 2014.