The Lego Movie

Rated PG {4 out of 5 stars}

I played with Legos. Didn’t you? Asked for and got them on birthdays and Christmas; bought them with allowance money; raided them at latchkey when I was in second grade at Silverwood Elementary. You might say Legos were a formative aspect of my left-brain self, a reality I’m certainly not alone in sharing. But somewhere along the line I put them down, and at a point almost forgot they even existed. That is until about 10 years ago when all my little cousins started getting old enough to buy actual presents for, whereupon I realized that not only were Legos still in existence, but that they were as popular as they’d ever been, if not more so. Why not then, with their presence of utter ubiquity since the release of mini-figures in 1978, bring this acrylonitrile butadiene styrene wonder to the silver screen?

Warner Bros. has apparently been asking this same question since 2008, when The Lego Movie officially entered gestation. Over time, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) were selected to join writers Dan and Kevin Hageman (Hotel Transylvania). Perhaps most primary to the potential success of the film though was choosing Animal Logic (The Great Gatsby, Australia, Happy Feet) to head animation and visual effects. (Say what you will about the content of Animal Logic’s film credits; they’re all visually stunning, and that’s the business they’re in.) Now six years after its inception, the long-awaited final product is fortunately one worthy of standup applause.

The Lego Movie introduces you to Emmet (Chris Pratt), a happy-go-lucky construction worker with nary a thought in his head. Emmet’s favorite song is “Everything Is Awesome” by A Popular Band. His favorite television show is Where Are My Pants? And the most creative idea he ever had was to build a double-decker couch with cup-holders. He lives in a society consumed by homogeny, ruled by President/Lord Business (Will Ferrell). But upon demolishing a section of the city deemed incongruous, Emmit discovers a mysterious and beautiful woman, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), whom he unwittingly follows into the dark depths below. Long story short, Emmet comes into contact with The Piece of Resistance, and is decreed by the MasterBuilder Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) to be “The Special,” who alone holds the power to save the world from Lord Business (if he can just evade Bad Cop, expertly voiced by Liam Neeson).

Ostensibly childish, the above plotline is actually rife with allegory from the outset, depicting a culture deprived of innovation and creativity. From its mainstream radio mockery of “Everything Is Awesome” to its throng of blue collar laborers following Lego instructions to a rigid tee, The Lego Movie’s aim for an overtly adult theme that children can still grasp is both fair and true. And with said adult theme comes surprisingly adept adult humor, considering the film’s PG rating. Yes, it would have been easy for the Hageman brothers to load the script with lame pop-culture references and bland fart jokes, but they instead craft a Lego Land that feeds off witty, fast-paced dialog, and yet they know how and when to pull back on the reins for effect. With cameos galore, viewers are treated to a variety of charming characters, including Batman (Will Arnett), 1980-something Space Guy (Charlie Day), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams!), to name just a few.

And oh that animation—you can practically feel the snap in your fingers. Animal Logic really nailed this one, masterfully creating one of those few flicks a year that’s an absolute must as a theatrical experience. The action is fast, furious and plentiful, with sets from the big city to the underworld, the Old West to Middle Zealand. What’s more are the many moments of sedation where it seems as if you could reach out and touch actual plastic. Basically, just sit back and enjoy 100 minutes of visual wizardry while the responsible parties buy polishes for their inevitable 2015 Oscar win.

And there you have it. An animated feature film marketed for children, written for adults, that ultimately pleases one and all. Easily the best movie of the New Year, expect to hear from The Lego Movie come award time next winter.