The Lego Movie hits theaters today, and though it's a kid-friendly PG-rated animated feature, it has a clever way of combining the nostalgic glory of Lego sets with a host of recent pop culture characters licensed by the toy company, from comics heroes Superman and Batman to Star Wars characters, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and the classic Lego mini-figure. That combined with the ensemble voice cast, which includes Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, and dramatic stars Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman, seems to help the film transcend getting pigeonholed in the for-kids-only rut à la Wreck-It Ralph, and critics have praised it for its consistent humor, quickly moving story, and beautiful animation despite some qualms about an unoriginal plot and storytelling style. As of today, The Lego Movie has a score of 82 or MetaCritic and is at an impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's a brief look at what critics have to say about the film:
The praise for The Lego Movie is pretty consistent across the board. The Chicago Tribune had a particularly glowing review: "This isn't just the funniest PG-rated animation in too long; it's the funniest film, period, in months, since the kid-hostile This Is the End and The World's End came out last summer." The reviewer goes on to suggest a Nobel Peace Prize for writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who also penned the 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies) for creating a "manic wonder" in The Lego Movie, which sneaks in "so many small, medium, and large jokes on the sly, it has an instantly re-watchable appeal." Similarly, Entertainment Weekly gave The Lego Movie an A and showered it with trailer-ready complimentary phrases like "fast and original," "conceptually audacious," "visually astonishing," and "startlingly sophistocated."
On the flip side, most of the complaints against The Lego Movie stem out of its familiar storyline, and reviewers have had way too much fun using "out-of-the-box" Lego metaphors to illustrate their gripes. The New York Times noted that the film "encounters an obvious contradiction, one that bothered the 10-year-old Lego maven who accompanied me to the press screening. The 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." Just about every other review with this criticism equates the film's weaknesses to that of uninventive children following the boring Lego directions — see The Village Voice and The LA Times — but The A.V. Club also pointed out that the gender disparity of the original Lego sets has made an unfortunate carryover to the film with Elizabeth Banks as the only Lego mini-figure with a big role in the film. Both the A and B plots of the movie are male-dominated, so hopefully Alison Brie's performance as the pink girly Uni-Kitty goes over well with little girls (and boys who like uni-kitties) everywhere.
Mild complaints aside, The Lego Movie's reviews remain overwhelmingly positive, and above all, critics seem to agree that it's a movie that will entertain kids and adults alike. "Pop-culture jokes ricochet off the heads of younger viewers to tickle the world-weary adults in the audience, with just enough sentimental goo applied at the end to unite the generations," A.O. Scott wrote in his review. "Parents will dab their eyes while the kids roll theirs." So if you have a kid, here's a movie you can take them to see that you might actually like too (and thankfully it's heavier on the humor than it is on the emotional torture we've come to expect from Pixar), and if you don't have a kid, it's still worth it to watch some of comedy's finest transform into tiny Lego figures on an epic journey.