AT THE MOVIES - Fun and cleverly crafted, 'The Lego Movie' has something for everyone

AT THE MOVIES - Fun and cleverly crafted, 'The Lego Movie' has something for everyone

*** "The Lego Movie"

A raucous, rainbow-tinted joyride fueled by earnest nostalgia, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's "The Lego Movie" is built for kids but signals adults with snappy, pop culture-infused humor and genuine heart. The directing team behind 2009's bright and bubbly "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (and 2012's riotous "21 Jump Street") keep the laughs consistent, the visuals dense, and their love of the product fervent, presenting an ode to a decades-old (and much beloved) toy that freshens the brand while temporarily extinguishing the stigma of highly branded cinema. Of course, after an hour and a half of surveying colorful crafting in a frenzied state of jubilation, it's hard not to develop a hankering for tinkering with the famed construction toy.

And boy, is Lord and Miller's blocky, boxy universe ever so boisterous, a seemingly stop-motion experience deftly created with CG animation. With astute attention to detail - from the crack in a minifigure's helmet to the hasty construction of a ramshackle spaceship-submarine hybrid - "The Lego Movie" is a saturated textural wonder, constructed with nearly every Lego piece in its 65-year arsenal. Just as important are the minifigures inhabiting the vivid world, as we meet our nondescript lead Emmet (Chris Pratt) a construction worker content with leading an ordinary life in a uniform society. Cheerfully singing along to the positivity-enforcing (and woefully catchy) Lego world theme song "Everything is Awesome," Emmet's routine is shaken up after the amiable drone stumbles into a block that marks his destiny as a "Matrix"-esque hero to all of Lego-kind. Teaming up with spunky, punky Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks, still not quite as famous as she ought to be) and coached by the blind prophet Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) the formerly unexceptional Emmet finds his mojo and forges a few friendships in a bid to defeat the diabolical, conformist dictator Lord Business (Will Ferrell channeling Megamind).

The voice actors in attendance, from the exuberant Pratt in full Andy Dwyer mode, to the cranky dulcet-toned Freeman, to Will Arnett's dark and bumbling Batman, are as well cast as any celebrated ensemble piece. Charming cameos abound - big names provide the voices behind notable figures (Liam Neeson steps away from solemnity to play an amusing good cop/bad cop minifig) and a few well-known, cult favorite surprise characters drop by for some big laughs a la "Wreck-It Ralph." While little ones might not pick up on some of the retro humor, the energy and comedic timing of the cast provides entertainment for all ages. Lord and Miller keep it fat and fast, layering so many quips atop pratfalls, quick cuts, and riffs on questionably constructed Lego pieces, it's easy to miss a referential barb or two. Despite the hastiness and crowded architecture (nary a play set goes unrecognized here, from pirates to trains to underwater landscapes) there's never a manic sense of quantity over quality. The throwbacks are well-culled, and the narrative is subtly imbued with a Pixar-light sense of purpose.

"The Lego Movie" isn't quite a revelation to the medium. Pop culture wisecracks appease but overflow at times, and as mirthful as the film is, it's still just a movie built around a brand. However, with a sly send-up of conformist society subtly filtered in, a bold final act plot turn brimming with heart, and a conveyor belt of punchlines aimed at multiple generations, the film succeeds in stamping out its own low expectations while living up to the critical hype.

Now playing at CinemaWorld, Lincoln, 622 George Washington Highway, 401-333-8676, www.cinemaworldonline.com .