Photo: Warner Bros.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Chris Luckett

Remember when you played with toys as a kid and one fantasy scenario would lead right into the next? Wolverine, Donatello, and Scrooge McDuck could race the Batmobile across the deck of the Titanic, before suddenly warping to the moon and playing a game of darts with Bart Simpson, and it all made a twisted kind of sense. It’s that childlike sense of genius randomness that makes The LEGO Movie the first great movie of 2014.

Emmet Brickowski, voiced by Chris Pratt, is a happy, normal LEGO guy. He’s positive about everything, his favourite TV show is Where are My Pants?, and he has a construction job laying LEGO bricks. One day, his uninteresting life is interrupted when he becomes tangled up in a plot involving the leader of Brickburg, President Business (Will Ferrell), trying to destroy the world and a Matrix-style prophecy that just might apply to Emmet.

Really, the plot is as present as it needs to be, but doesn’t spend lots of time dwelling on details like story and motivations. (Or so it seems, actually – the final act of the movie contains a number of brave narrative gambles that come out of left field and show just how out-of-the-box The LEGO Movie was thinking all along.)

Much like 2012’s underrated The Pirates!: Band of Misfits, The LEGO Movie is made to look animated in stop-motion, but is actually amazingly detailed computer animation. The LEGO bricks that make up the characters and settings look completely real; the plastic bricks even have worn paint and chipped plastic, like most that you played with as a kid.

The voice cast is so large, there’s not enough time to go into how great they all are. Suffice it to say, though, that any movie that lands a cast comprised of Pratt, Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Anthony Daniels, Cobie Smulders, Jonah Hill, Dave Franco, Billy Dee Williams, Nick Offerman, Morgan Freeman, Jake Johnson, Will Arnett, and Channing Tatum definitely knows what it’s doing.

So many family movies nowadays either pander to children with insulting antics or are too busy being kinetic to attempt to be clever or funny. The LEGO Movie has such an effortless power behind it, it’s a sheer joy to behold. The comedy is really funny, the animation is simple yet intricate, and the action careens from one random moment of genius to the next. It’s the type of movie that a kid could come up with, but in treating its whimsy with thoughtfulness, it also makes you feel like a kid again.

4½ stars out of 5