Movie review: Creators of ‘The LEGO Movie’ build hilarious family entertainment
Review • A snappy sense of humor and amazing animation create a dazzling movie.

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: February 7, 2014 10:05AM
Updated: February 7, 2014 12:17PM
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This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows characters, from left, Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, Wyldstyle, voiced by Elizabeth Banks and Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, in a scene from "The Lego Movie." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The more cynical moviegoers may turn their noses up on “The LEGO Movie.” It’s based on a toy franchise, and Hollywood’s track record for developing an entire movie based on a plaything is atrocious. How many more disasters like “Transformers” and “Battleship” can we endure?

But the creators of “The LEGO Movie” know the building blocks of a great movie: charm, side-splitting jokes, lovable people (er, I mean LEGO figures) and an engaging storyline. The result is a zippy and hilarious movie that any family member is going to adore, whether into LEGO or not.

Emmet (voiced by “Parks & Recreation’s Chris Pratt) is a LEGO construction worker who realizes his life is nothing special — he wakes up, goes to work and hobbles through his day unnoticed. After an accident at the construction site, Emmet discovers a secret key to fighting a growing evil in his LEGO land: the maniacal Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who wants to control the universe by gluing everything together.

Emmet gets help from a mysterious woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) who believes he is The One who can save the land and stop Lord Business. So she recruits more help from the likes of her boyfriend, LEGO Batman (Will Arnett), and other licensed LEGO figures, including The Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Superman (Channing Tatum) and Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings.” Thereare also one or two more wonderful LEGO cameos that will bring huge smiles.

Big points go to directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) for doing something unique with computer animation: They mostly used CGI to look like old-school stop-motion animation. While the movie’s movement looks like the painstaking process of moving real LEGO figurines a fraction for each frame, it’s really the result of computer animation made to look like actual LEGO creations — enough to trick me into thinking it was the real thing. So instead of having the glossy sheen of any other computer-animated movie, “The LEGO Movie” feels nostalgic. Some of the animated set pieces, ranging from a vast LEGO city to the flowing LEGO-made waves during a pirate scene, look astounding. Even the bubbles and steam in a shower are made to look like the filmmakers patiently animated plastic blocks (the only unnecessary cinematic trick was the 3-D, which added nothing).

Then Lord and Miller, who also directed the funny and very-adult comedy “21 Jump Street,” add their slightly subversive sense of humor, loading “The LEGO Movie” with rapid-fire jokes that race along with the movie’s crazy pacing. Especially outrageous is LEGO Batman with his droll, whiny delivery and a habit of being a lousy boyfriend.

All of these inanimate colored blocks even tie up the story with a warm message about expressing yourself and your creativity through building up and breaking down new ideas. Sure, in the end, you can start to see the LEGO marketing message seep through the cracks, but only the most jaded viewer is going to let that weigh down this lively and hysterical good time. After all, the LEGO people were right: By themselves, these little bricks mean nothing, but put together by the right master builders, they can create something truly magical on the big screen.

vince@sltrib.com

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The LEGO Movie

Millions of LEGO bricks come together to create one of the funniest family movies in years.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens today.

Rating • PG for mild action and rude humor.

Running time • 100 mins.