‘The Lego Movie’ a funny, inspired piece of animation

Many adults complain that today’s youth is dominated by video games and iPads. But no matter how advanced technology becomes, Lego will always be there to provide the building blocks for good, old-fashion fun. Every Lego box is a treasure chest of infinite possibilities, allowing us to construct castles, cars, and entire cities. Lego has fueled our imaginations ever since 1949. Sixty-five years and 560 billion Lego pieces later, we get “The Lego Movie.”

Yeah, just saying that title out loud makes me feel silly. “The Lego Movie” is indeed very silly and appropriately so. The film is also a surprisingly inspired piece of animation. This easily could have been the biggest sellout since Nintendo manufactured “The Wizard.” While it might look like an hour and a half long toy commercial, “The Lego Movie” is actually a lot more inventive than anyone would ever expect.

Chris Pratt is Emmet, a seemingly run-of-the-mill mini-figure who blends right in with the other residents of a Lego city. The land is ruled by the evil President Business (Will Ferrell), who is determined to control everyone and everything in the Lego universe. Emmett is finally influenced to standout from all the other yellow-faced people upon meeting a lively Lego woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). She informs Emmet that he’s a special Master Builder who can save their world from President Business. The two team up with the other Lego Master Builders, which includes Will Arnett as Batman. That’s right, Batman.

Lego has crossed paths with numerous popular franchises over the years. This makes leeway for the filmmakers to include characters like Superman, the Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Han Solo, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shaq, and Millhouse from “The Simpsons.” It’s a little like that “Imaginationland” episode of “South Park” or a “Robot Chicken” sketch with less profanity.

In addition to existing copyrighted characters, “The Lego Movie” also includes entertaining original characters such as Morgan Freeman as a blind soothsayer named Vitruvius, Alison Brie as a unicorn kitty named Uni-Kitty, Charlie Day as a retro spaceman, and Nick Offerman as a robot pirate. My favorite of the bunch is Liam Neeson as a schizophrenic police officer who is literally two-faced. One side of his head is a tough as nails bad cop while the other is a friendly nice cop. Think the Mayor of Halloweentown with a badge.

People have been making stop-motion home movies with Lego figures for years, lampooning everything from “Star Wars” to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” “The Lego Movie” isn’t stop-motion animated, but the convincing computer-animation certainly makes it appear that way. The characters, the vehicles, and the set pieces all look and move exactly like a real Lego world sprung to life. It’s truly some state of the art animation that’d be a joy to simply look at even if the sound was turned off.

“The Lego Movie” is both funny and heartfelt, although it doesn’t quite top the “Toy Story” trilogy in those departments. Like “Toy Story,” however, it does capture the lighthearted wonder of a child playing make-believe with their toys. In the midst of all the childish absurdity, the film also manages to work in an endearing moral about individuality and a clever twist ending. Writers/Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of “Cloud With a Chance of Meatballs” obviously grew up with Lego’s and set out to make the best Lego feature film possible. What they give us is a goofy good time that finally provides families with a suitable alternative to seeing “Frozen” for the hundredth time.

(Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach the reporter at nspake@asu.edu.)

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