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A Few Bricks Shy of a Load

MOVIE REVIEW
The Lego Movie (2014)

The-lego-movie-review-chris-pratt
Warner Brothers Pictures

Even though Claymation is de rigueur in the realm of stop-motion animation, brickfilms date all the way back to the 1970s. There hasn’t been a prominent example perhaps because the Lego Group unsurprisingly pursued legal action over “The Magic Portal,” a feature-length brickfilm made in the late 1980s. The precedent has been enough to scare off aspiring brickfilm makers since, even though the company seemingly reversed its stance in the early 2000s with the release of Lego Studios kits.

As its title suggests, “The Lego Movie” has the company’s blessing and touts the virtues of the product. The sense of product placement and corporate synergy only deepens with Warner Brothers Animation seizing the opportunity to parade the fleet of the DC Comics characters in its catalog.

The trailer for “The Lego Movie” promises it to be totally bonkers — complete with that loony yet catchy-as-hell “Everything Is Awesome” song — and that’s a very good thing. At least, lighthearted silliness serves as a palliative for the reflexive cynicism that emerges in viewers confronted with such a blatant corporate agenda. But the filmmakers do not have the good sense to stop there. Instead, they inject a message and enough family-friendly warmth and fuzziness to have your eyes roll out of their sockets. Do not read further if you can’t handle spoilers.

Will Ferrell, who supplies the voice of Lord Business, appears in the flesh in the third act as the obsessive-compulsive father who forbids our imaginative but unseen-until-now storyteller from dismantling dad’s precious Lego cityscape to construct his own. It’s a meta moment that could have registered as inventive, but instead it cloys.

THE LEGO MOVIE

Opens on Feb. 7 in the United States and on Feb. 14 in Britain.

Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, based on a story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Kageman, Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller, and based on the Lego construction toys; director of photography, Pablo Plaisted; edited by David Burrows and Chris McKay; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; production design by Grant Freckelton; produced by Dan Lin and Roy Lee; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated PG by M.P.A.A. and U by B.B.F.C.

WITH THE VOICES OF Chris Pratt (Emmet), Will Ferrell (Lord Business/President Business/the Man Upstairs), Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle), Will Arnett (Batman), Nick Offerman (Metal Beard), Alison Brie (Unikitty), Charlie Day (Benny), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop) and Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius).

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