Critical Mass: Can 'The LEGO Movie' really be THAT good?

LEGO-Movie.jpg

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Moms and Dads: Get your kids to take you to see The LEGO Movie this weekend!

That seems to be the message from the nation’s movie critics, who have uniformly crowned this 3-D toy story the brilliant hybrid offspring of Pixar’s best infused with South Park‘s irreverent humor. Based on the ubiquitous lock-block toy and licensed with many of pop-culture’s most ubiquitous heroes, The LEGO Movie is a sly Trojan horse of a movie. “Using the building-block world of LEGO to parody the creeping conformity of our world, The LEGO Movie proves even more biting than WALL-E, because it has the sauciness to send up its own rise-of-a-hero story line,” writes EW’s Owen Gleiberman.

Parks and Rec‘s Chris Pratt voices Emmet, a typical LEGO drone who accidentally stumbles upon a LEGO piece that makes a band of Matrix-like revolutionaries think he’s the Special, the one who can save their world from the fascist President Business (Will Ferrell). Emmet has some high-profile allies, including Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders), and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as the beautiful rebel Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the sage mystic Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).

Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo behind the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie is a clever combination of stop-motion animation and ingenuous CG effects — fire, water — all made to resemble stop-motion. Toss in the ironic Tegan and Sara anthem to conformity, Everything Is Awesome, and your inner-nerd child has plenty to play with.

Before you head to the theaters, read what some of the nation’s top critics are saying about The LEGO Movie. (Or just go see it before they hype it beyond realistic expectations.)

Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly) ▲
“It may be a helter-skelter kiddie adventure built out of plastic toy components, but it’s fast and original, it’s conceptually audacious, it’s visually astonishing, and it’s 10 times more clever and smart and funny than it needed to be. Here, at last, is an animated comedy that never stops surprising you.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)
“The overt message is that you should throw out the manuals and follow the lead of your own ingenuity, improvising new combinations for the building blocks in front of you. But the movie itself follows a fairly strict and careful formula, thwarting its inventive potential in favor of the expected and familiar.”

Pater Hartlaub (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Filled with humor and action, the Warner Bros. movie pulls off an emotional finish that rivals some of Pixar’s best work. You can argue — and not sound completely crazy — that this is a better film than a few recent Academy Awards best picture nominees.”

Bilge Ebiri (New York — Vulture) ▲
The LEGO Movie is the kind of animated free-for-all that comes around very rarely, if ever: A kids’ movie that matches shameless fun with razor-sharp wit, that offers up a spectacle of pure, freewheeling joy even as it tackles the thorniest of issues. It’s part South Park, part Lord of the Rings; part The Matrix, part Idiocracy.

Ty Burr (Boston Globe) ▲
“The keys to the movie’s absurdly high enjoyment factor are its exuberance, timing, wit, and willingness to stoop to its source — or kneel on the carpet looking for lost bricks, as the case may be. Unlike Battleship, G.I. Joe, and the dreaded Transformers series, The LEGO Movie is rooted in the wonky hobbyist esthetic of the LEGO system itself.”

Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“The movie’s secret weapon is the vividly detailed world Lord and Miller have created for their characters, stuffing the screen with so many visual puns and easter eggs, you often want to hit the pause button to take it all in.”

Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times) ▲
“If you’re wondering if the film plays like a 90-plus-minute commercial, strangely it does not. There is a very familiar feel to the film, which remains true to the style of those ubiquitous bits and pieces that are EVERYWHERE. At the same time, The LEGO Movie is strikingly, exhilaratingly, exhaustingly fresh. Not plastic at all.”

Andrew O’Hehir (Salon)
“Even in delivering the message that Lord Business’ fetish for order is not the true Way of LEGO, there are limits. LEGO long ago forged corporate partnerships with Marvel, Disney, Lucasfilm, DC Comics, Warner Bros. and so on, and those interests are protected.”

Richard Corliss (TIME) ▲
“No question that the movie promotes what Prez Biz would call a subversive message: Be creative with your toys. It also urges kids to venture out of the virtual world they live in and use their hands for something other than typing.

Peter Debruge (Variety) ▲
“The film functions as a massive homage to a shared childhood experience, amplified and projected on the bigscreen. So, while the result is undoubtedly the single most product-centric film of all time, it’s also just hip and irreverent enough to leave audiences feeling as though its makers managed to pull one over on the business guys.”

Michael O’Sullivan (Washington Post) ▲
The LEGO Movie pokes fun at anyone who would argue that LEGO products are, as one character puts it, ‘a highly sophisticated, interlocking brick system,’ and not simply toys. But it also makes fun of itself, tweaking the conventions of narrative filmmaking, animation and LEGO model-making itself.”

The LEGO Movie
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 81
Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent

Rated: PG
Length: 101 Minutes
Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell Will Arnett
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Distributor: Warner Bros.

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