The new animated film "The LEGO Movie" is in theaters now. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
In the past few years, there's been such a glut of animated films that animation, in effect, has stopped surprising us. That's part of why "The LEGO Movie" is such outrageous and intoxicating fun. 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, smart and funny than it needed to be. Here, at last, is an animated comedy that never stops surprising you.
The co-directors have created "The LEGO Movie" almost entirely out of digital imagery, but they replicate the primitive, eye-popping high of stop-motion animation, inventing a LEGO universe as if it had been built piece by piece. Like "Toy Story" 19 years ago, the film fools your eye into thinking it's watching real plastic that moves.
And the connection to the Toy Story films doesn't end there. "The LEGO Movie," too, creates a kind of child-friendly meta universe in which the playthings on display are at once objects and characters. The transparently fake LEGO constructions have the pure spirit of make-believe. The hero, Emmet Brickowski, is an ordinary Joe construction worker. He chews over last night's episode of a braindead sitcom and bops along to the feel-good robotic disco anthem "Everything Is Awesome."
"The LEGO Movie" skewers a fascist entertainment state in which corporations now dictate every momentary pleasure. The movie also satirizes the overblown solemnity of fantasy franchise filmmaking. It presents, with poker-faced mockery, a white-haired wizard named Vitruvius, voiced by Morgan Freeman, along with a natteringly contentious group of superheroes from Batman to Green Lantern to Abe Lincoln.
You'd expect the hero to be a nonconformist, but Emmet really isn't special. That's part of the film's subversive cheekiness. The comedy is very digressive, very free-associational. And though near the end, "The LEGO Movie" takes a leap into outside-the-frame story-telling that may not have been necessary, that leap neatly channels the film's theme: If you build it, life will be awesome.