THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for mild Action and Rude Humor

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Directed by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Written by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Voices of: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill & Will Forte

I thought THE LEGO MOVIE looked awful from the trailer that premiered last July. Movies based around toys, whether they be action figures (TRANSFORMERS franchise) or board games (BATTLESHIP), almost never work on any level. THE LEGO MOVIE looked like it would be one big long commercial for those beloved sets of bricks that we all grew up with. Enter Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (whose previous work includes the delightful CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS). This comedic duo has crafted a spectacular script to what sounded like a terrible project. The crew behind this film also includes a diverse cast of characters and a lively animation team. Before getting into the details of just why THE LEGO MOVIE soars to the highest pillar of family entertainment,  I’ll present the basic set-up…

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Living in a world built of Legos and populated by Lego figures, Emmet is just a generic construction worker who goes with the flow. He doesn’t have any real friends to speak of and revels in whatever’s popular (be it a TV sitcom titled Where’s My Pants?, drinking overpriced coffee, or listening to the hit-rock song “Everything Is Awesome” for five-hours straight at his workplace). After running into a rare artifact, Emmet finds himself on an unexpected adventure with such unlikely companions as Wildstyle (an action heroine), Vitruvius (a blind wizard), and other oddball companions. This also includes Batman. Emmet may be in over his head, but only they can stop the evil Lord Business from destroying the world as they know it with an ultimate weapon known as the “Kragle.”

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The computer animation looks so convincingly like stop-motion executed with Legos, that I really wouldn’t be shocked if most of the movie was done with real stop-motion. Every frame of the film is lively and visually entrancing! There’s so much going on the background of some scenes that THE LEGO MOVIE will probably get even more enjoyable on repeat viewings. The cast of characters is vast and the voices bringing these Lego figures to life ranges from action stars (Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop) to comedians (Charlie Day is hysterical as a spaceman, Will Arnett knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of Batman, and Will Ferrell is delightful as Lord Business) and even some fun cameos (Channing Tatum as Superman and Jonah Hill as Green Lantern, among others).

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The voice cast is impressive, but the script elevates the material from great to absolutely A-grade material! Yes, there are pop-culture references (we see plenty of notable characters from movies, sports, and comic books). I usually despise these in comedy with a passion, but oddly enough the references in THE LEGO MOVIE will age very well. It’s not just incorporating what’s hip and new at the present. Everybody loves DC Comics, basketball legends, and some movie series that are referenced. There won’t be a time when these references get old, because the things being references aren’t just fads or nods to things that have been released in the past year (unlike all those lame spoof movies that seem to get pumped out every few months). This decision was nothing short of brilliant and the film doesn’t exclusively rely on these fun pokes for the viewer to enjoy it!

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While the plot itself is a mere outline for lots of creativity and fun. It succeeds in this case, because that’s exactly what everyone brought to the table. There’s a quality in THE LEGO MOVIE that’s rarely found in family entertainment (of any era). It seems as if the entertainment factor was a high priority from everybody involved, but the last third is where things get taken from a great movie to a surprisingly heartfelt piece of cinema (I’m seriously referring to THE LEGO MOVIE as that). I won’t spoil what happens, but it touches the emotions of children and will bring some brimming tears to the eyes of many an adult. This is where I knew outright that this is a top-level piece of family friendly entertainment for me.

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Parents sitting behind me were skeptical when the film began. As it ended, they were cheering “That was great!” Various members of the audience were also giving it a strong round of applause as well. I always say (and will continue to do so) that great children’s entertainment isn’t just meant for children. Really phenomenal family films can be enjoyed by the whole family for a wide variety of reasons. THE LEGO MOVIE is the kind of family film I just described. It’s too early to tell for sure, but I wouldn’t be shocked if THE LEGO MOVIE winds up being one of the best 2014 has to offer. Take your children to see it! Take your girlfriend or wife to see it! Take yourself to see it! THE LEGO MOVIE is (to bring back a word used frequently throughout the film) awesome!

Grade: A+

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