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'The Lego Movie' builds a sturdy movie from a solid fan base

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FEBRUARY 05, 2014

If “Battleship” taught us anything, it’s that not all toys should be topics of movies. When Warner Bros. announced it would be giving Lego the silver-screen treatment, it was understandable for the world to give a skeptical sigh. “The Lego Movie” is arriving in theaters Friday, and unlike its blundering board game brethren, it has been assembled by builders who know what they’re doing.

The film stars happy-go-lucky Emmett, voiced by Chris Pratt, who gives the typical yellow Lego figurine a comedic polish that fills the film with the same clueless, boyish whimsy Pratt is known for. Happy to stay blind to the oppressive Lego police state controlled by the shadowy President Business (Will Ferrell, in a slightly more nefarious version of his misunderstood villain in 2010’s “Megamind”), Emmett works a meaningless construction job, buys overpriced coffee and sings along to the unnaturally catchy radio hit “Everything is Awesome” (by Tegan and Sara, featuring a very-PG Lonely Island).

At first, the story’s complexity resembles something read off the back of a sugary cereal box: Lego “Joe Schmo” Emmett stumbles across a mysterious brick piece that holds the secret to foil President Business’ plans. A team of “Master Builders” are assembled to help him reach the heart of Business’ layer and stop the use of a super-glue doomsday machine. Things take a Lego-sized leap into the meta at the end, however. While the departure is not all too unexpected and feels a bit like Warner Bros. is trying to ascend the franchise to a “Toy Story”-esque catharsis, it is refreshing and provides a bit more punch to what could have been a one-trick Lego pony.

Directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who previously dabbled in and conquered with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) made the most of their ultimate Lego play set. They meshed cutting-edge CGI with the look and feel of old-school stop motion, resulting in some incredibly crafted action sequences. Whether intentional or not, the animation fondly and expertly brings to life the world of imagination kids playing with actual Legos can only dream of.

Another plus is the film’s boxed set of respectable talent. Elizabeth Banks voices the mysterious Wildstyle, the Lego girl-next-door with a tough streak (just don’t ask her where she got her name). Will Arnett brings his best hard-boiled bravado as the egotistic Batman, who also happens to be dating Wildstyle. Other notable voice talents include Morgan Freeman, Charlie Day and a bipolar Liam Neeson. Ferrell is a stand out, playing both the funny-man-turned-malicious-mastermind President Business as well as another character who is Business’ larger than Lego-life counterpart (you’ll have to see the film to find out what I mean).

The other brilliant business worth mentioning is the use of every Lego tie-in under the giant, yellow-brick sun, making characters such as Batman, Dumbledore and even a well-timed Chewbacca cameo possible. Almost all these cameo characters are voiced by equally recognizable actors such as Channing Tatum, Nick Offerman and Jonah Hill as the clingy fanboy Green Lantern. The variety of popular actors and their plastic counterparts is sure to draw laughs from fans all over the demographic charts.

“The Lego Movie” is not just for kids and older fans who nostalgically remember constructing their first Lego-brick Death Star. The humor in the story is surprisingly self-aware and contains social satire that only parents will understand the first time around. With the inevitable convergence of multiple fan bases, Warner Bros. is sure to have a lasting (if not acutely calculated) hit. After the film’s impending success, “If you build it, they will come” might need to forever be updated to “If you build it with Legos, they will come and pay extra to see it in 3-D.”

Ryan Koehn covers film. Contact him at [email protected].

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FEBRUARY 06, 2014

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