This toy story has a good message for kids and sharp satire for their parents. | ★★★½ out of 4 stars
Warning: Choking hazard — laughter.
“The Lego Movie” is the best toy story since the last “Toy Story.” There’s slam-bang silliness to keep the household’s junior members entertained, with sharp blockbuster parody and sly social satire for the rest.
The creative forces behind this nifty surprise are writing/directing partners Phil Lord and Chris Miller. They worked similar wonders with the plotless children’s book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and made an idiot’s delight of “21 Jump Street.” Here they’ve assembled an endearingly quirky charmer to make you clap your tiny curved yellow hands in joy.
In Bricksburg, industrious workers demolish artistic Old World buildings to make way for sterile, horizon-choking office towers. It’s all part of the master plan imposed by President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), uptight CEO of this lockstep domain. His Octan Corp. creates mind-dulling pop music, insipid TV shows, surveillance systems, history books, voting machines and flying robot Micro-Managers. His rule: An orderly Bricksburg is a happy Bricksburg.
Bricksburg’s uniform citizens agree, commuting to work on a motorway that looks like the New Jersey Turnpike in pastels. Perhaps the most ordinary among them is Emmet (Chris Pratt), a nice-guy nerd elated by his daily routine of overpriced coffee-chain java, work, sports bar chicken wings and the TV sitcom “Where Are My Pants?” In fact, Emmet fits in so well that none of his co-workers remembers a single detail about him.
All that changes when Emmet tumbles down a hole (endlessly, uproariously) and discovers a non-Lego artifact. As foretold by the shaman Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Emmet becomes the most powerful, important and interesting person in the world. He even meets the girl of his dreams, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who represents the imaginative, make-your-own-instructions Master Builders.
As the prophesied leader of this revolutionary clique, Emmet visits other Lego realms and joins forces with Batman (Will Arnett), ’80s Spaceman Benny (Charlie Day) and Metalbeard the Pirate (Nick Offerman) to save the day.
In epic action movie mode, many bullets fly, many cars crash and a bucketload of things blow up. All in Lego-mation, of course. Though the film was made with computer graphics, it artfully mimics the 3-D look and feel of stop-motion animation. The movements are a bit clockwork and herky-jerky, retaining the sense of the theatrical machinery of a young kid’s mind. Even the pandemonium has a comic shape. There’s something irresistibly silly about all that ricocheting building-block debris.
This is joyous moviemaking. Freeman skewers his long run of oracular wise man roles with his turn as a glib, bogus soothsayer. There are jabs against Siri, “The Lord of the Rings,” failed Lego brands, Liam Neeson’s late-career makeover as a bad-ass, and the DC Universe’s biggest loser, Green Lantern. There’s a swell nod to the Greek playwright Aristophanes, the father of theatrical comedy, and a pleasantly sentimental moral about doing things right vs. doing the right things. Comedy can be difficult. Here it just snaps together.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186★★★½ out of 4 stars