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updated: 2/6/2014 2:32 PM

Pop culture comedy follows the 'Lego' brick road

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  • Emmet (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) prepare to battle President Business in "The Lego Movie."

      Emmet (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) prepare to battle President Business in "The Lego Movie."

  • Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), left, and President Business (Will Ferrell) prepare to take over the world in "The Lego Movie."

      Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), left, and President Business (Will Ferrell) prepare to take over the world in "The Lego Movie."

  • Video: "The Lego Movie" trailer

 
 

What happened? Did the entire crew making "The Lego Movie" misplace their Ritalin and Adderall supplies?

That might explain why "The Lego Movie" is such an intense, cracked-out, pumped-up, animated big-screen sensory assault teeming with clever pop culture references, plus jokes and sight gags coming at you like Gatling gun bullets.

Warning: No restroom breaks for this one. You won't want to take time.

"The Lego Movie" entertains us with every blockbuster cliché known to humankind at the same time it ridicules every blockbuster cliché known to humankind.

This is subversive stuff designed to identify and deconstruct the conformity of Hollywood blockbusters.

Everything is awesome in this movie. No, really.

"Everything is Awesome" is the movie's theme song, pumped through the entire city of Bricksburg where everything (even water) is constructed from computer-animated building bricks.

Bland everyman Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) prepares for an awesomely boring day working construction.

"Awesome!" frequently pops up in the dialogue here, and it's a scathing criticism of Hollywood's verbally blunted blockbuster screenplays.

Stuck in a perpetually perky Pleasantville existence, superficial Emmet revels in buying high-priced coffee and singing the "Awesome" song in step with other conformist citizens.

One day, Emmet falls into a construction pit and meets a goth gal named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). He begins to suspect he might be "The Special," a messiah who will rise to rid the Lego universe of its rigid conformity.

Because Morgan Freeman's Obi-Wannabe wizard, Vitruvius, says the "Special" is foretold in an ancient prophecy, then it must be true. Hey, he's Morgan Freeman!

Movie nerds will delight at the smorgasbord of cinematic snippets sampled in this silly saga: "Star Wars," "The Matrix," "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" lead the list of referenced works that probably made licensing the biggest portion of the "Lego Movie" budget. At least for the non-Warner Bros. properties.

The omnipresent Will Ferrell plays Lord Business, the evil leader seeking to lock the citizens into place with a powerful force known as "Kragle" (actually, a Krazy Glue tube with the label all twisted up).

Emmet, a shallow, callow young man styled after Luke Skywalker perhaps, isn't really sold on the idea of him being "The Special."

He receives help from Batman (Will Arnett, delivering the movie's best lines with Christian Bale-ful gruffness), a steely pirate called Metal Beard (Nick Offerman) and a flat-faced feline named Unikitty (Alison Brie).

The movie's most inspired character, Good Cop/Bad Cop. is played by Liam Neeson as a genuinely schizophrenic member of the Bricksburg P.D., a two-faced officer who switches personalities on a dime, or even a nickel.

"The Lego Movie" is written and directed with sassy "South Park" irreverence by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who gave us the big-screen reinvention of the hit TV series "21 Jump Street" and the animated fantasy "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."

In "The Lego Movie," the duo expands this plot way beyond a simple-minded action comedy based on pop references and snappy comebacks. Emmet's adventures telescope into a much bigger story at the end, using Legos to discuss creativity vs. stifled thinking, individual expression vs. social conformity.

"The Lego Movie" lasts only 101 minutes, yet it can't quite maintain its comic density for its full running time.

If this fantastically inventive film runs out of Lego-constructed steam that's OK. It allows us time to recover from the insane onslaught of gags that never hits a brick wall.

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