Dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Warner Bros.
4.5/5 stars

It is not shocking that “The Lego Movie” exists. After all, Legos are one of the most beloved and best-selling toys in the world. What a delight, then, that “The Lego Movie” is not an overblown toy commercial, but an excellent film that the entire family will enjoy—Lego-lovers or not.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, best known for their irreverent remake of “21 Jump Street,” tell the tale of Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), an average-Joe construction worker in the city of Bricksburg who is content to stick to the status quo and follow the instructions of the sinister President Business (Will Ferrell) and his henchman Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). His life changes forever when he finds The Missing Piece, a fabled artifact that can prevent the end of the universe, and is mistaken for a Master Builder with unique creative powers. The movie follows Emmet’s struggle to use his imagination and save the world with the help of rocker Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), the peppy Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Batman (Will Arnett).

The film is elevated above its standard kids’-movie competition due to its incredible animation. “The Lego Movie” uses CGI to painstakingly simulate a world entirely built out of Legos, with buildings and even oceans made out of tiny bricks. The characters move stiltedly as if a child were moving them, and the overall effect is dazzling. The world of “The Lego Movie” feels like the best playset ever, evoking a sense of awe and nostalgia.

“The Lego Movie” also boasts an incredibly diverse and charismatic voice cast. Pratt’s everyman is charmingly goofy, and functions as a relatable audience surrogate to an at-times confusing world. Ferrell basically plays the same villainous characters he does in many of his movies (think “Zoolander”), but why fix what is not broken? Banks and Brie are also excellent as polar opposites who are forced to work together, but the real star performances come from Freeman and Neeson. Both actors parody their movie star images, with Freeman’s wizard and Neeson’s bipolar cop getting the best lines in the entire movie. The film also boasts cameo appearances from Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders and others.

None of this would work, however, if it were not for Lord and Miller’s hilarious yet moving script. “The Lego Movie” is often riotously funny. So many children’s films try to appeal to both generations by mixing crass “kiddie-humor” with pop culture references for the parents, but “The Lego Movie” is better than that. The smart yet accessible jokes come a mile a minute and often poke fun at standard action movie conventions. The film also treads unusually complex thematic territory for a children’s film. One of the movie’s main messages is that boundless imagination is great but that there is a place for rules and order—a philosophy one would not expect from a film based on blocks. “The Lego Movie” is an absolute blast that has more brains and heart than its plastic protagonists would suggest.