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Pieces fit together well in ‘LEGO Movie’

2/6/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

“The LEGO Movie” opens in theaters tomorrow, Feb. 7.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Is Sid, the neighbor boy in the original “Toy Story” movie, such a bad kid? Oh, yes, he certainly is — he plays with explosives and steals his sister’s playthings. But his desire to take pieces and parts of toys and combine them into strange new creations is not one of his worst qualities. In fact, it’s one that’s celebrated in the silly and fun “The LEGO Movie.”

The computer-animated movie, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is set in a universe where everything is made from the popular building blocks. It’s a bright and shiny world, though one that’s positively Orwellian. Adherence to “the instructions” is mandatory, and the mixing of LEGO sets (say, a Wild West set with an outer space set) is strictly prohibited. Watching over the plastic population is the devious Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) and his top enforcer, Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson). They have plans to make sure no brick will ever again be out of place.

This tyrannical form of government — a “brick-tatorship,” if you will — is just fine with Emmet (Chris Pratt), a cheerful-though-lonely construction worker who is spectacularly ordinary. But his dull life is thrown into turmoil when he accidentally comes across an artifact desired by a resistance group. The group believes the person who finds the object is special, as foretold in a prophecy. A tough freedom fighter named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is dubious.

Enlisted in this battle are LEGO versions of many pop-culture characters, including a good number of superheroes. Chris McKay, one of the minds behind the crazy stop-action comedy “Robot Chicken,” is the co-director of “LEGO,” and the movie has much of that show’s subversive sensibility. There’s fun to be had with figures that can be PG-rated even when forgetting to put on their pants. (The movie also has darker scenes other family friendly movies couldn’t get away with, as when Lord Business torments the parents of Bad Cop/Good Cop before the cop’s eyes.)

The voice cast, which also includes Will Arnett, Alison Brie and Channing Tatum, embraces the goofiness. Morgan Freeman is terrific voicing an oracle-like character named Vitruvius, who knows the prophecy is true because “it rhymes.”

The LEGO characters are not as self-aware as the ones in “Toy Story” or “Wreck-It Ralph.” They don’t know why they were put on this planet, but they do believe in a “man upstairs.” The more enlightened among them believe creativity is a virtue, instructions don’t need to be followed and the pirate pieces and the robot pieces can be combined to form an entirely new entity.

The movie’s ending is just this side of syrupy, but it does help to reinforce the theme. The film will probably sell a few sets, which is good for LEGO’s bottom line, the film’s producers and budding builders and architects. Woe to those parents who step on the pieces barefooted, however.

The movie, which opens Feb. 7, is rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

HHH (out of four)


Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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