The Lego Movie 

Phil Lord's and Christopher Miller's The Lego Movie pulls the rug out from under you almost immediately, when Morgan Freeman's blind wizard, Vitruvius, signals the arrival of the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) by solemnly intoning, "He is coming. Cover your butt." Lord (later President) Business presides over a Gormenghast of interlocking plastic blocks populated with happy, mindless people like Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), a claw-handed construction worker who cheerfully and blindly follows his daily instructions for living a happy life. In the first of many satirical touches, one of those instructions is "Buy overpriced coffee"; another involves singing an inane ditty called "Everything Is Awesome" for five hours straight.

Two accidents throw Emmet's dull and lonely world into chaos. First, he lays eyes on Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a beautiful freelance "master builder" poking around a job site late one night. Second, something called "The Piece of Resistance" fuses to Emmet's back, causing Wyldstyle to think of him as the fulfillment of Vitruvius' deathbed prophecy about a "special" who will rise up and end Lord Business' obsessive-compulsive reign of terror.

Like Mel Brooks' 1987 Star Wars takedown, Spaceballs, The Lego Movie is a self-aware, product-placement group grope at war with itself. But part of the fun is in the way those battles cause significant collateral damage to the rest of the pop culture landscape. Pirates, superheroes, The Lord of The Rings, and Abraham Lincoln himself all receive well-deserved kicks in the pants. And if the conformist nightmare of Emmet's Legoland isn't scary enough, consider the alternative — a rainbow-colored anarchist wonderland presided over by a deeply repressed "Unikitty" (Alison Brie).

Still not convinced? Well, what if I tell you that Pratt and Will Arnett, who plays Batman as an egomaniacal, intolerant, hyper-serious industrial-music composer, deliver the best comic performances of the still-young year? ■

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