Few things scream "cash grab" as loudly as a movie about a popular children's toy, as these productions rely highly on the brand recognition of children and nostalgia of adults. Making a good movie inspired by pre-existing playthings is such a rare thing that it almost seems impossible. Thankfully, Phil Lord and Chris Miller -- the directing duo behind the charming 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' and the hilarious '21 Jump Street' reboot -- are known for turning terrible-sounding projects into spectacularly entertaining adventures. And they've done the impossible with 'The LEGO Movie', creating a wonderful narrative that perfectly captures the wonder and joy of playing with the iconic building blocks.

'The LEGO Movie' centers on everyman Emmet (Chris Pratt), a mini-fig construction worker who loves his daily routine of following the rules and fitting in to his LEGO city like a perfectly placed block. But once he crosses paths with a renegade Master Builder called Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Emmet stumbles into a whole new world of adventure. Believed to be the savior that has been prophesized, Emmet must take on the tyrannical Lord Business, who has terrible plans in store for all the inhabitants of the LEGO universe.

How do you make blocks and simple mini-figs into an engaging movie? Well, an end of the world scenario isn't a bad start. Lord and Miller throw us right into the fray of this conflict between Master Builders whose inspiration leads them to build fantastical improvised creations, and the forces of Business who demand everything fit theme and follow the instructions laid out in the manuals. It's a story about the power of creativity and imagination, and its filmmakers take that theme to heart with every nook and cranny of 'The LEGO Movie's' incredible design.

This computer-generated cartoon pays great respect to the reality of LEGOs, carefully recreating actual play sets and mini-figs, while building new and thrilling environments from the same principles and physical pieces. It's a feast for the eyes as Emmet travels from one realm of LEGOs to another, showing us forests, deserts, castles, cloud cities and oceans all made of LEGOs. Fitting its vibrant color palette, there's a contagious energy to the film. Part of it is the fast-paced plot, which zigs and zags from one dazzling setting to the next, each with a stunning action sequence. The rest of 'The LEGO Movie's' remarkable exuberance should be credited to its outstanding voice cast.

Pratt leads the ensemble and offers a chipper and lovable leading man in Emmet. Banks is badass as Wyldstyle, dolling out one-liners as easily as robot-defeating martial arts moves. As Lord Business, Will Ferrell brings the kind of fantastic bad guy moxie he showed in 'Megamind.' Will Arnett gives smirking humor to LEGO's Batman, while Morgan Freeman offers a grandeur and goofiness as the wise man Vitruvius. Alison Brie, Charlie Day and Jonah Hill have notably fun performances. But the scene-stealer is unexpectedly and unquestionably Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop, a police officer who literally has two faces and two distinct sides to his personality. As Bad Cop, Neeson pulls from 'Taken'-style growling, but as 'Good Cop' he lifts his tone and sounds like he's talking to an adorable puppy. The back and forth of this character is easily one of the film's most rewarding gags.

'The LEGO Movie' is stuffed to the brim with jokes and eye-popping visuals. It's frankly astonishing how much fun and what sophisticated humor is to be had in this silly movie about mini-figs. Lord and Miller clearly put a lot of thought into what makes LEGOs such a classic toy, and they fed all of this passion and creativity into the movie's construction. For me, the only weak point is the third act, which after offering a delightfully surprising twist gets a bit heavy-handed. But all in all, 'The LEGO Movie' is awesome. But be warned: No matter your age, no matter if you have kids or are one, 'The LEGO Movie' will have you hankering for some LEGO playtime of your own.


Watch 'The LEGO Movie' Trailer

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