Movies based on toy franchises — from "Clue" to "Battleship" — have generally been as appealing as stepping barefoot on a Lego block in the middle of the night. The latest toy-inspired endeavor, "The Lego Movie" shows that it's not the game but how it's used that makes it a winner or loser.
Directors/writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have taken the colorful children's toy and put it together with a solid script — one that has the high-speed and quirky humor of "Airplane." The colorful animation and non-stop action will keep the attention of youngsters, while there's a smart level of humor aimed at adults.
Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is a colorful construction worker who spends as much time working on his people skills as he does clicking together projects on the construction site. His fears that his life is irrelevant are dashed when he discovers an ancient artifact that can save the Lego world from the evil plans of Lord Business (Will Ferrell).
This novice hero gets some help from the trendy Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), self-assured Batman (Will Arnett), visually impaired Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and a bucket load of other heroes. The voice talents are dead-on, from Pratt's goofy innocence to Freeman's reassuring vocals that always add weight to any project. The big surprise is Arnett, whose Batman has the seriousness of Christian Bale's take on the caped crime fighter with the irreverence of the '60s Adam West version.
Even supporting players bring big laughs. Superman (Channing Tatum) must deal with a clingy Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), who desperately wants the pair to be best buddies. They have a small role, but when they are on screen it's good for a big laugh.
This is a movie that would be just as entertaining with the sound off. Lord and Miller have so much going on that it's impossible to appreciate it all in one viewing. The humor not only comes from the sharp-witted script, but from a lot of visuals in the background.
The pacing is just a click below frantic and a click above manic. A mix of stop-action and computer-generated images, the film is an explosion of visual splendor. Each frame is a character, vehicle or building put together with such detail that every moment should be studied to fully appreciate the craftsmanship. If you have doubts, try building an ocean out of Legos and see how complicated it can be.
"The Lego Movie" has a second level that would spoil too much if discussed. All that can be said is that this film was a winner without the element, but its addition gives an added punch of a sweet message.
After so many attempts to launch a great movie based on a toy franchise, "The Lego Movie" found an entertaining way to create a funny and fun movie while remaining true to the original product.
You would be off your block not to see this movie.
"The Lego Movie," rated PG for mild action. Stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Running time: 101 minutes. Grade: A-
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.