With one obvious exception, toy stories don’t have the luckiest big-screen pedigree: The results are often either sugary cartoons for undemanding kids or noisy blockbusters for brain-dead teens. If the producers of The LEGO Movie had taken either approach, there would have been an outcry. These lifeless plastic bricks are too beloved, too iconic to be subjected to the Hollywood sausage-factory treatment. Luckily for all, someone had the foresight to bring in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and the result is bold, berserk and strangely beautiful, exuding LEGO love from each frame.
Our everyman hero, Emmet (Chris Pratt), is the happiest guy in Bricksville: He’s gainfully employed as a construction worker (what else?), he adores his coworkers, and he knows that mighty President Business (Will Ferrell) has his best interests at heart. So when he’s thrown into an epic conflict between Business’s robot clones and the forces of creativity and invention (led, of course, by Batman and Abraham Lincoln), all Emmet wants is to get back to normality.
Occasional pacing issues aside, The LEGO Movie is sheer joy: The script is witty, the satire surprisingly pointed, and the animation tactile and imaginative. Expect controversy over the climax, though. The film plunges deep into waters left uncharted since the mid-’80s, leading to a strange, deeply sentimental but oddly touching climax that manages to say more about its source “material” than any toy movie to date.
Follow Tom Huddleston on Twitter: @TomHuddleston_