Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have made big business out of revamping seemingly tired or uninspired properties into fresh comedic fodder – first turning kiddie book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” into a cross-generational winner packed with jokes for the entire family, before deciding that “21 Jump Street” was the perfect big screen outing for a self-reflective gag fest starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill – and they’re up to their usual tricks with “The Lego Movie.” Another animated outing for the duo, “The Lego Movie” takes the concept of big screen world-building to extremes, as the film imagines an entire universe populated by plastic pieces that snap together – to amusing and entertaining results. Legos: not just for getting lodged in your foot anymore.
Emmet (energetically voiced by Chris Pratt) is a wholly regular citizen of the picturesque Bricksburg, a construction worker who likes doing things literally by the book, even if his true (read: wacky) colors threaten to shine through at inopportune moments. The world of Bricksburg is overwhelmingly orderly, and everyone appears to relish their place in a society that, quite honestly, seems to fit just a bit too neatly together. More than anything, Emmet wants to find his place in the world around him, and he attempts to click with both people and situations with a can-do personality a guide that promises to provide him with essential “rules to fit in.” Emmet, of course, does not fit in.
It might be that he just tries too hard (and that doesn’t necessarily appeal to the more laidback citizens of his world), but that’s about to come very much in handy for Emmet – because his world is soon transformed by a dunderheaded accident that leads the wily Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) to believe that he is “The Special,” a foretold figure who will save the Lego populace from the evil machinations of Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). While Emmet and everyone else in Bricksburg knows Business as “President Business,” Wyldstyle and the rest of the MasterBuilders (including Vitruvius, voiced by Morgan Freeman, just doing his Morgan Freeman thing) know him as an evil overlord who is about to destroy the universe for good (well, really, for evil).
The accidental recipient of “the piece of resistance,” Emmet goes along with Wyldstyle and her, yes, wild ideas that he is a prophesied leader who will save the entire universe, mainly because she’s pretty and it’s nice to have a friend. As their journey ratchets up, the Lego world quickly expands out – Bricksburg, it seems, is not the only realm around, and Wyldstyle and Emmet zip through other areas, including The Old West (fashioned after the American West, complete with cowboys and actual cows), Middle Zealand (an apparent Lego take on medieval England), and Cloud Cuckoo Land (a candy-colored cloud-based area that is essentially presented as a somewhat terrifying rave that feeds on good vibes) on their quest. And, yes, all of this is still rendered in oddly evocative Lego.
The real world is always lingering outside the frame – after all, Lord (er, President) Business has a room full of “relics” that come straight from a clearly non-plastic world (from spare change to an X-Acto knife) – but the Lego world is so amusing, craftily put together, and creatively made that any flesh and blood concerns are soon forgotten. As with any Lord and Miller property, “The Lego Movie” is also just plain funny, loaded with joke after joke and pun after pun.
Of course the gag of “The Lego Movie” is that, well, they’re all Legos, but the film’s medium offers a level of creative freedom that most big studio executives can only dream of, as the animated nature of it allows Lord and Miller to round out their supporting cast with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Gandalf, Green Lantern, and even some of the most recognizable characters from “Star Wars.” If nothing else, there’s a level of recognizability to the film that’s hard to match. “The Lego Movie” is strangely familiar territory for Lord and Miller, who did some similar blending with their beloved, but short-lived animated series “Clone High” (a one-season comedy that imagined what would happen if some of the world’s most famous dead people were cloned and thrown into high school together, with characters including Abe Lincoln and Cleopatra).
Lord and Miller’s sensibilities are continually clever, and “The Lego Movie” works hard to gradually deliver surprising payoffs to what seem to be throwaway bits. (Yes, “the piece of resistance” is eventually explained in great detail, but even that doesn’t detract from how funny its actual real world application is.) Lord and Miller have already proven adept at blending genres, but “The Lego Movie” is a new step forward for them, one that clicks right into place more often than not.
SCORE: 8.3 / 10