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story.lead_photo.caption Caption: LEGO minifigure Batman (voiced by WILL ARNETT) in the 3D computer animated adventure "The LEGO Movie," from Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Lego System A/S. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.

It’s oddly refreshing when a movie intended to sell toys winds up being thoroughly delightful on its own. The folks behind The Lego Movie have apparently forgotten that they’re supposed to be making a 90-minute commercial for the Danish plastic-brick maker, and no one’s complaining.

Writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the minds behind How I Met Your Mother and the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) have fashioned a clever and almost subversive tale that involves plastic people making their way through a Lego world.The constructions are reinforced with enough nostalgia and satire to keep grown-ups from feeling as if they’ve been held captive by their offspring.

It’s also worth noting that the film is made to look as if every frame was entirely constructed with bricks. That means even smoke, waves or other atmospheric touches were built from solid matter. The figurines that inhabit this alternate reality are remarkably expressive despite the fact that they have limited mobility. Some of the humor comes from the way they get around like people despite the fact that they don’t have knees or elbows. Recruiting a terrific voice cast certainly prevents the characters from seeming robotic.

An appropriately giddy Chris Pratt provides the voice for Emmet Brickowoski, a lowly construction worker whose only distinguishing traits are his eagerness to fit in and his overpowering blandness. His closest co-workers and friends can barely remember him.

Perhaps Emmet’s lack of originality is a sign that he’s destined for something greater. On the construction site, he discovers a young woman in a hoodie - and a strange object that becomes attached to his back. The ferocious lady is Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and the mysterious package is the one object that can stop the world’s autocratic leader, President Business (Will Ferrell), from forcing everyone to be attacked by the kragle, his frightening new weapon.

While a zero who turns out to be a hero goes back even farther than The Matrix, Lord and Miller find several enchanting ways to make the story seem fresh. For a film aimed at kids, The Lego Movie is unafraid to go “meta” or even wrestle with existential questions. Yes, the youngsters will still love it, probably because the supporting cast is full of imaginative characters.

Along the way to his eventual confrontation with the autocrat, Emmet encounters a creepy policeman (Liam Neeson) who by merely turning his head can be both the good cop and the bad cop of an interrogation. He also discovers that Batman (Will Arnett) is more sullen and self-absorbed than he is heroic. Emmet does get some help from a blind mystic (who else but Morgan Freeman), a relentlessly cheery Unikitty (Alison Brie) and a cranky pirate made from spare parts (a hilariously typecast Nick Offerman).

There are more delightful Lego people and animals where these folks originated. This raises a troubling question. Why is it in this relatively new year that the best characters in a film so far happen to be made of plastic?

The Lego Movie 89 Cast: Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Morgan Freeman Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller Rating: PG, for mild action and rude humor Running Time: 100 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 02/07/2014

Print Headline: The Lego Movie

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