“The Lego Movie” is one of the funniest, most madcap animated movies of recent memory, and perhaps ever. It’s like pouring Mentos and Diet Coke straight into your brainpan while doing backflips on a trampoline and staring through a kaleidoscope. It’s like being submerged in candy and tickled by seraphim.
“The Lego Movie” is like one of those gigantic fast-food burgers that’s really, like, four burgers smashed together and sold as a heart-attack starter kit. There are probably three or four movies’ worth of movie crammed into “The Lego Movie,” such that you could make your own sequel just by watching it a second time and paying attention differently.
If it feels as chaotic as a tub of Legos tumped onto the carpet, well, that’s just mise-en-scène you’re stepping on barefoot. The film is animated primarily as Lego blocks and buildings and canyons and space ships and whatnot, giving it the feel of high-speed stop-motion with the chunky pixilation of an 8-bit video game. It looks like nothing that has come before, it builds characters who are distinct and likable, and it runs on pure nitrous oxide, as a drag racer on laughing gas.
There is a plot in all of this, too. Let’s see. There’s a construction worker, a pleasantly unremarkable dude named Emmett (Chris Pratt), who’s really into the most popular TV show (“Where’s My Pants?”), the most popular song (“Everything is Awesome,” an instantly immoral earworm by Tegan & Sara and The Lonely Island), overpaying for coffee and hanging out with his friends.
Except he doesn’t have any friends, really — he’s so conformist that no one has any reason to remember him. That is, until he stumbles across a fabled block that marks him as the Special, a master builder prophesized to save the world (echoes here of “The Matrix”). He doesn’t believe this himself, but a lovely and mysterious builder named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is convinced, so he follows her into a resistance against the autocratic corporate ruler, President Business (Will Ferrell), who plans to use a super weapon to freeze the world in place. Other notable characters that will make no sense as listed here: Batman (Will Arnett), a wizard named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and a brutal/kindly cop (Liam Neeson). Suffice it that everyone is awesome.
The jokes whiz past like so many plastic laser blasts — you know you’re missing plenty of them, but it’s too much of a trip to care. The pitch of the humor harks to early-’90s episodes of “The Simpsons,” in which some of the jokes were squarely for kids, and others for adults, but generally so accessible that any generational differences shrank and winked out of existence. This is what Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng might’ve attempted had they enjoyed this many moving parts at their disposal for Looney Tunes cartoons.
Among its many delights is the sheer fact that a movie explicitly named after a toy by all rights could’ve been nothing more than a crass, 100-minute commercial. Instead, directors Phil Lord (“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”) and Christopher Miller (ditto) steer the story through some big adult thoughts on conformity, commercialism, mass culture, creativity and identity, to a degree children’s movies rarely attempt. Heck, any movies, for that matter.
The moral, if there is one, seems to be that you’re special, unless you’re not, but that’s fine, too, because you can be, if you just do things. And at a certain level that’s probably pretty accurate, even if — all right — it totally makes you hanker to go dink around with Legos.