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Film review: Believe it or not, ‘The Lego Movie’ is great

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If you’re going to see only one movie based on toy blocks this year, make it The Lego Movie.

Three and a half stars

The Lego Movie Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Rated PG. Opens Friday.

It’s hard to expect much from something called The Lego Movie, which was certainly conceived in some corporate boardroom as a way to sell more toys. But thankfully the suits at Lego and Warner Bros. decided to turn over the creation of the movie to writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who did wonders with a similarly brand-based animated property in 2009 when they made Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

Like Cloudy, The Lego Movie is frenetic, often hilarious fun, a nonstop barrage of wordplay and sight gags, centered on an everyman hero who must learn to believe in himself. In this case, it’s Lego construction worker Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), who discovers that he’s the designated savior of his brick-based world from an evil tyrant known as Lord Business (Will Ferrell). The story follows a familiar hero’s-quest story while also cleverly parodying Hollywood’s obsession with “chosen ones,” and makes creative use of the visual style and brand identity of Legos (the members of Emmet’s conformist society are obsessed with always following their instruction booklets).

Along the way, there are cameos from licensed characters who have their own Lego sets (Batman, Gandalf, Han Solo, Shaquille O’Neal, a Ninja Turtle, etc.) and enough goofy twists in the story to keep it fresh even as it serves up standard kid-movie lessons. The ending, with a detour into live action and some heavy-handed sentimentality, goes a little astray, but overall The Lego Movie is far better than a film based on toy blocks has any right to be.

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