Film review: The Lego Movie (U, 100 min)

The LEGO Movie: Emmet (Chris Pratt), Batman (Will Arnett), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks)
The LEGO Movie: Emmet (Chris Pratt), Batman (Will Arnett), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks)
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Building a classic, brick by brick

Ah, the heady whiff of nostalgia.

It was Christmas 1984. I remember excitedly tearing snowman-festooned wrapping paper off a large box and staring wide-eyed at the LEGO construction set that had been the subject of countless unsubtle hints to my parents.

Those tiny coloured construction bricks became a building site for my imagination, and even now, I get warm, fuzzy pangs when I see film-themed kits cluttering up the shelves of toy shops.

That same warm glow permeates Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s rollicking adventure, which cleverly employs the latest technical wizardry to mimic the crude, imperfect movements of stop-motion animation. The LEGO Movie is a hoot, celebrating the enduring power and popularity of a toy invented in the late 1940s.

Directors Lord and Miller, who donned hard hats at the helm of the first Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs film, strike a delicious tone of irreverence throughout to ensure parents enjoy the ride just as much as younger audiences.

The unlikely hero is a socially awkward LEGO mini-figure called Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), who works on a building site in his hometown of Bricksburg. Desperate to fit in, Emmet follows the dictates laid down by President Business (Will Ferrell), who is actually - shock, gasp! - arch-villain Lord Business in disguise.

This nefarious tyrant plans to destroy Bricksburg and the neighbouring districts of Cloud Cuckoo Land and Middle Zealand using an artefact known as The Kragle.

Ancient wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and his sassy henchwoman Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) mistake Emmet for a mythical figure known as Master Builder, who possesses the power to create anything out of LEGO bricks with his mind.

According to prophecy, Master Builder will locate the Piece Of Resistance and destroy The Kragle.

“A Special One? What a load of hippy, dippy baloney!” cackles Lord Business.

Emmet is press-ganged into leading the perilous quest to defeat the despot aided by a rogue’s gallery of mini-figures including Wyldstyle’s boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders), Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) and a classic 1980s-era blue spaceman named Benny (Charlie Day).

The heroes are pursued by schizophrenic law-maker and -breaker Bad Cop (Liam Neeson).

“Rest in pieces!” he guffaws as LEGO cannons destroy their home world.

Fast-paced and crammed with primary colours, The LEGO Movie pulls out all the stops to dazzle and delight.

The script is peppered with wry one-liners, cinematic homages and an infectious theme song – Everything Is Awesome – that burrows into the brain and refuses to leave quietly.

Pratt, Ferrell and co deliver ebullient vocal performances, which are complemented by frenetic action sequences by LEGO land, sea and air.

The final 10 minutes provide an unexpected, heart-warming surprise, guaranteed to have kids big and small grinning with glee.