Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Will Forte, Cobie Smulders, Dave Franco, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Jake Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal
Written by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, based on a story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor
Running Time: 100
Date: 02/07/2014

The Lego Movie (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brick Players

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of the main themes of The Lego Movie is expressed in the difference between following instructions and using one's imagination to free-play. The glorious thing about the movie itself is that, at least on screen, it has enthusiastically embraced the latter. It could have been a corporate commercial enticing kids to buy more toys, but instead it's as free-flowing, energetic, and as fun as actual play.

Several Lego videos already exist, including the Ninjago series, the Clutch Powers series, and last year's LEGO Batman: The Movie. The Lego Movie is something new. It has apparently been created with computer animation to look like old-fashioned stop-motion animation. This creates a warmer, more personal feel, although the visuals -- such as a colorful, anarchic rainbow world, or a roiling ocean seemingly made with millions of tiny blue bricks -- are still spectacular. The only drawback is that the slightly jerky quality can cause the faster-paced scenes to feel a bit too chaotic.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who took the obligatory big screen adaptation of 21 Jump Street and turned it into a hilarious hit, The Lego Movie has a similar irreverent, carefree attitude. Like Will Ferrell's Christmas classic Elf, it's loaded with all-ages humor without ever offending the kiddies.

The plot centers on a Lego worker named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), who follows all the instructions required for daily life. He learns of an evil plot wherein President Business (voiced by Ferrell), plans to destroy the world using a secret weapon called "Kragle." The Kragle can be stopped with something called the "Piece of Resistance." Emmet has accidentally obtained this piece, which means that he is the "Special," or the chosen one, destined to save the world.

He is aided by punk rock girl Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), the blind soothsayer Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), and, of course, Batman (voiced by Will Arnett). The President's evil henchman, Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson), tries to stop them.

If the plot sounds a bit routine, never fear: the filmmakers have several unusual curveballs in store. It also helps that the cast consists of brilliant comedians capable of rhythmic, off-the-cuff line readings.

Be prepared for cameos from the of the Lego company's official franchises: current Oscar nominee Jonah Hill plays a chummy Green Lantern, and some of the original Star Wars characters help. It may sound a bit reckless and piecemeal, but rest assured that it all comes together with a satisfying click.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray package is certainly one of the essential home video releases. The three-disc set includes a DVD, a Blu-ray, and a 3D Blu-ray, as well as a digital ultraviolet edition. The movie and sound are exemplary, and a very, very entertaining commentary track includes both directors, plus actors Pratt, Arnett, Brie, and Day (and guests). There are many great, short extras, from behind-the-scenes footage, to homemade "Brick" films and instructions on how to build some of the movie's props.

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