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‘Lego Movie’ a stop-motion success

By Ian Flanagan / Staff Writer

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“The Lego Movie”

Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks

From afar, “The Lego Movie” may seem like a shameless cash-in on a recognizable toy brand in the vein of the recent G.I. Joe movies or “Battleship,” but upon proper examination, the film is far more of a nostalgia-driven comedy enriched by razor-sharp writing, light-speed pacing and wondrous animation. 

But there was little reason to worry about the film’s potentially abysmal results, considering the talent behind it. Budding writer-director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have swiftly and faultlessly marched to the throne of comedy kings in their short time together and haven’t missed a single step with their latest creation. 

Following “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” — arguably the funniest animated film in recent memory — and the hilarious surprise that was “21 Jump Street,” directors Lord and Miller have kept their promising streak of success surging forward with “The Lego Movie,” which boasts a similarly infectious high-spiritedness and a number of self-referential jokes whizzing by so fast that multiple viewings will be necessary to catch the movie’s more subtle gags.

The unexpectedly complex story revolves around the definitively normal Emmet (Chris Pratt). His happy but empty existence is shaken up once he is presumed to be the “Special,” the most important master builder in the Lego universe, and prophesied to overthrow dystopian-esque dictator Lord Business (Will Ferrell) in his continued efforts to thwart creativity and incite strict order. Emmet, after stumbling upon the Piece of Resistance, which is key to defeating Business, is assisted by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a sorcerer with knowledge of the prophecy, and the aggressive Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). Along the way,  many iconic and amusing supporting characters make appearances — including Batman, Superman and Abraham Lincoln. All are voiced by countless big-name actors such as Will Arnett, Jonah Hill and Charlie Day.

In addition to the pleasant irritation of guessing the many voice actors, “The Lego Movie” is truly a visual wonderland, wholly realized and astonishingly intricate. The film avoids any sense of artificiality by utilizing a disarmingly old-fashioned stop-motion style of animation, which looks far more unique and handcrafted than any other entirely computer-animated film. Sequences involving explosions or, in the most breathtaking shots of the film, water, are dazzling. This film feels alive. 

Though the film’s vibrant energy at times does verge on the manic — the film doesn’t stay in one place for more than five minutes — the sure-handed direction of Lord and Miller thankfully breeds breathless beauty rather than numbing overkill.

Regardless of what is printed on a box of Legos, this movie is for everyone. The film is so few in flaws, so free of cutesiness and wearying pop-culture references and so effortlessly delightful that it is hard to imagine a depressing type of person who would be unmoved by “Lego’s” absolute blissfulness. 

Be warned, however: The deliriously catchy song “Everything is Awesome” will rattle in your brain long after you’ve left the theater. This would be aggravating only if “The Lego Movie” was anything less than awesome.

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‘Lego Movie’ a stop-motion success