Playtime has just begun for "The Lego Movie," and film critics could scarcely be more delighted. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's new 3-D animated film about an ordinary Lego minifigure-turned-unlikely-hero is meeting with nearly unanimous positive reviews.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey writes, "'The Lego Movie' is a massive collision of subversive humor, hyper-kinetic energy, mind-jangling design, spinning colors and about 15 million Legos, no exaggeration." The film benefits from "a cast that knows precisely how to play with a good line," including Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell and Will Arnett. Lord and Miller, meanwhile, "know how to shake and bake the kid stuff so that adults will bite too."
Sharkey adds, "If you're wondering if the film plays like a 90-plus-minute commercial, strangely it does not. … 'The Lego Movie' is strikingly, exhilaratingly, exhaustingly fresh. Not plastic at all."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr says that most Hollywood toy movies "are put together and come apart with disposable shoddiness, but every once in a while a couple of lunatics will build something ridiculous and lasting. When that happens, it should be honored. My fingers rebel, but type it I must: 'The Lego Movie' is the first great cinematic experience of 2014."
He adds, "The keys to the movie’s absurdly high enjoyment factor are its exuberance, timing, wit, and willingness to stoop to its source — or kneel on the carpet looking for lost bricks, as the case may be."
Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post agrees: "There are so many things to like about 'The Lego Movie': a great voice cast, clever dialogue and a handsome blend of stop-motion and CGI animation that feels lovingly retro, while still looking sharp in 21st-century 3-D."
For O'Sullivan, the best thing about the movie is its subversive nature. With its rule-breaking spirit, "The Lego Movie" undermines, "with delightful results, the hegemony of a creative toy that comes with its own set of inflexible rules."
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips raves. "Finally! A comedy that works," he says. "An animated film with a look — a kinetic aesthetic honoring its product line's bright, bricklike origins — that isn't like every other clinically rounded and bland digital 3-D effort. A movie that works for the Lego-indebted parent as well as the Lego-crazed offspring. A movie that, in its brilliantly crammed first half especially, will work even if you don't give a rip about Legos." And that's just the first paragraph.
Claudia Puig of USA Today concedes that "at times the whole thing becomes a bit too noisy and frenetic," but she adds, "overall, the experience is giddy fun for the kids, and the irreverent dialogue and gently pointed satire is amusing for the adults who accompany them."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott is less effusive but still positive. The film's visual environment, he says, "hums with wit and imagination," even if the story is "a busy, slapdash contraption designed above all to satisfy the imperatives of big-budget family entertainment."
A contradiction in the film, Scott says, is that its "overt message is that you should throw out the manuals and follow the lead of your own ingenuity, improvising new combinations for the building blocks in front of you. But the movie itself follows a fairly strict and careful formula, thwarting its inventive potential in favor of the expected and familiar. But of course that tension lurks in every box of Lego."
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