'Lego Movie' built upon solid laughs

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You may recall that this concept of everyday toys coming to life has been attempted in the past.

All in all, it went pretty well. So it's hard to go into something as commercially driven-sounding and unimaginatively titled as "The Lego Movie" without some apprehension.

Could it possibly rise to "Toy Story" level?

Well, yes.

"The Lego Movie," directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ("Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," "21 Jump Street"), is a hilarious thrill ride, relentlessly funny and clever, from the minute we meet our hero -- Emmet.

'The Lego Movie'

Starring Voices of: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Nick Offerman..

Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor..

There's nothing heroic about Emmet (Chris Pratt), a Lego construction worker who lives and works strictly by the (instruction) book. That's how President Business (Will Ferrell) wants it, and he keeps the citizens of Bricksburg pacified with a steady diet of inane TV shows ("Where Are My Pants"?), inane pop songs ("Everything Is Awesome") and Taco Tuesdays. He's trumped up by the mega-corporation Octan, which controls everything, including the voting machines.

Emmet's manual goes out the window when he stumbles upon a beautiful rebel, Master Builder Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and becomes attached (literally) to a prophesied Piece of Resistance that is the only hope for Bricksburg. President Business is actually Lord Business and along with Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) he plans to reign terror upon Lego city with the chemical weapon Kragle.

Emmet is dragged unwillingly into an underground revolutionary movement led by bearded mystic Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and peopled with such historical giants as Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, Wonder Woman, the Ninja Turtles, Dumbledore and the 2002 NBA All-Stars.

Meanwhile, Emmet's slim hope of winning the affections of Wildstyle hit a snag when he learns that she already has a boyfriend -- Batman! And he's a pompous egomaniac played by Will Arnett. Somehow they must penetrate Lord Business' skyscraper headquarters guarded by lasers, sharks, laser sharks and "an overbearing assistant."

Along the way, they plunder into alternate Lego universes, including the Old West (a bar fight, of course), Middle Zealand, Star Wars and the new Cloud Cuckoo Land, home of Unikitty, who keeps a firm unicorn-feline paw on all negativity.

When the action heats up, Emmet tumbles into a Lego realm you never see coming, and that's where the movie's message of throwing out the instruction book is clearly driven home.

Lego fans will be delighted to know that nearly the whole movie is constructed with the little bricks, right down to the clouds and water. Building goes on within the movie as well, as master builder Wildstyle is constantly whipping up contraptions to get them out of jams. More than 3.8 million unique Lego bricks are represented and -- in an in-joke that amused the adult Lego group at the screening -- at times you see the number of the Lego piece flash on the screen.

The creators didn't attract such A-list talent as Mr. Freeman, Mr. Neeson and Mr. Ferrell without a good script. This one generates laughs all the way through, and while it's only the first week of February, it's not out of the question that "The Lego Movie" could hold up as one of the better comedies of the year, animated or otherwise. Not only that, it has heart to match.

One warning for parents and kids alike is that it does have the desired side effect of making you want to buy Legos. Like right away. And you might want to dream up something crazy to make with them.


Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.

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