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"THE LEGO MOVIE"
(2014) (voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Animated Action/Comedy: An unassuming LEGO minifigure finds himself pegged as the chosen one to save the world from a tyrannical madman.
PLOT:
Emmet (voice of CHRIS PRATT) is an unassuming but cheerful LEGO minifigure who gets up in the morning, listens to the pop song "Everything is Awesome" on his way to work as a construction worker, and then heads home by himself to watch the sitcom "Where Are My Pants?" all operating under the belief that if he follows his society's instructions all will be fine. Little does he realize, however, that President Business (voice of WILL FERRELL) is planning on ending the world as Emmet and the rest of the worker bees know it with a weapon known as the KraGle. Nor does he have any idea that he's the prophesized "The Special," the most important person in the universe who's the only one who can stop President Business and his nefarious plan.

Emmet learns of this when he meets Wyldstyle (voice of ELIZABETH BANKS), a young Masterbuilder who believed she was "The Special" and thus isn't happy to discover that Emmet is the one. Nonetheless, she rescues him from the clutches of Bad Cop (voice of LIAM NEESON) -- who works for President Business -- and sets off with Emmet so that he can meet the wise prophet Vitruvius (voice of MORGAN FREEMAN) and figure out what to do. All three, however, run afoul once more of Bad Cop, with Wyldstyle self-absorbed and brooding boyfriend, Batman (voice of WILL ARNETT), having to sweep in and save them.

They then meet with a number of Masterbuilders including the ever optimistic Unikitty (voice of ALISON BRIE) and 1980s era spaceman Benny (voice of CHARLIE DAY) who simply wants to build a spaceship to save the day. Instead, it's up to Emmet to do that, even if he's far from being a Masterbuilder and has no idea what to do or how to stop the tyrant. But with time running out and their universe at stake, he does what he can with the help of his new friends to thwart President Business.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Hollywood sometimes ends up surprising even the most ardent skeptics. Take, for instance, those who complain about the lack of new ideas in contemporary movies. Or the industry's history of attempting to milk moola out of popular or at least recognizable properties. The argument goes that rather than come up with something original, new movies end being based on older movies, TV shows, books, comic books, games and even toys.

Granted, I can easily see the allure of the potential cash extravaganza, what with the "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" franchises each pulling in billions of dollars, which also holds true for the "Transformers" flicks (that I, admittedly, thought was a horrible idea and would likely flop). Even so, when I heard there was going to be a movie based on LEGOs, my initial reaction was a roll of the eyes and a "here they go again" mindset.

After all, the last real exposure I had to the toys was in the late 1960s and early '70s when they pretty much consisted just of the familiar, interlocking building blocks and a base upon which one could build walls, buildings and such. The "big" innovation back in the day were actual tiny windows and doors that could be inserted amongst the various colored blocks to create some additional "realism."

Little did I know that since then the LEGO Group has gone far above and beyond those early literal and metaphorical building blocks and expanded into additional toys (including mini figures), robotic sets, board games, video games, a clothing line and even six amusement parks. Hallelujah, it seemed like "The LEGO Movie" plot might just involve something more than the building of simple walls, steps and buildings.

In fact, and while construction of various styles is present, the flick is much more than I imagined, and while it might not quite live up to the catchy song "Everything Is Awesome" that plays early on, it's quite good and should easily entertain both kids and any adults in tow. The former should enjoy the blocky-looking characters (and some might identify with the protagonist who doesn't think he's anything special but then proves to be just that), the colorful animation (designed to appear somewhat akin to stop-motion animation) and the often frenetic action.

Adults, on the other hand, will enjoy all of the little bits of creative, witty, sometimes hilarious and even somewhat subversive bits that co-writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have injected throughout this 100-some minute flick. That includes making fun of conformity (Emmet the hero is introduced as just another cog in a city system where following the instructions equals success), pop entertainment (beyond the "Amazing" song there's also the popular TV show "Where Are My Pants?") and the unholy alliance between big business and politics (all revolving around President Business -- Will Ferrell) only leading to bad things.

There are also nearly more cultural icons than one can shake a stick at. They, of course, are based on the history of licensing that LEGO did to bring certain well-known characters into their fold. The most obvious -- and funny -- one revolves around Batman who's presented here as a self-centered and brooding mini-figure (hilariously voiced by Will Arnett) who's the unlikely boyfriend to the main female character (Elizabeth Banks). She's always wanted to be "the special" who the wise prophet (Morgan Freeman) has long awaited, and thus isn't happy when it appears our cheerful Luke Skywalker, uh, Emmet, is that universal savior.

Yes, the plot is essentially something along the lines of the original "Star Wars," but that doesn't detract from the fun. That's especially true when characters from that movie end up making a brief cameo appearance along with scores of other characters who add their own little pieces of humor into the mix (including Liam Neeson voicing a literal two-faced officer who alternates between good and bad cop personalities based on the orientation of his swivel head). And in somewhat of an unexpected turn, things turn a bit sentimental in the end when all is revealed about the characters, their behavior and related motivation.

To be honest, I would have been relieved had the film simply not turned out to be the easy cash, corporate tie-in fiasco I feared upon first hearing of the project. The fact that it's much more than that only made "The LEGO Movie" that much more enjoyable to sit through. I imagine others (at least adults) will have the same experience of dread followed by blissful enjoyment. Wholly unexpected, the pic rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed February 1, 2014 / Posted February 7, 2014


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