Some of you are probably old enough to remember the presidential campaign of 1996, in which the principal rhetorical device in play was whether or not we voters wished to build a hypothetical bridge to the past, or a bridge to the future. It's now 2014, and we don't have to choose, because The Lego Movie does both - all while building a bridge to your heart at the same time.
Yep, you'd best get your umbrellas and rain gear ready, because I'm about to gush.
Above and beyond what The Lego Movie gets right on its own terms, we can start with the fact that it does other people's franchises better than they can, with a Batman (Will Arnett) who's more fun than Ben Affleck has ever been, a Green Lantern and Superman who contain more joy than their respective cinematic counterparts, a Star Wars tribute more relevant than anything JJ Abrams will likely manage, and in Princess Unikitty, a character who demonstrates that these filmmakers understand the My Little Pony fanbase way better than anybody who had a hand in making Equestria Girls (and we hardly need mention the Ninja Turtles, right?). This is a toy story worthy to stand alongside Toy Story, and a guaranteed future classic that establishes the Lego brand as being in the elite company of the likes of Pixar and the Muppets as something you can usually trust to please young and old. Beyond that, it's actually a really well-made film too, with Fellini references and genuinely risky narrative and aesthetic choices.
It's hard to say that anything you watch in February is likely to be one of the year's best, but if I see better, let's just say it'll be a very good year indeed, and if I see a better animated movie in 2014, it'll be a mind-blower. I hate to judge people based on their opinions, but if you're a reader of this site and you don't like this, let it be known that I will be instantly suspicious of you as a human being. It's a movie made for you, by people who actually seem to respect you. And it isn't all gags - The Lego Movie has a strong heart, but it also has the sense not to milk the sentimentality, and to leaven it with anarchic humor wherever possible.
Like in the Toy Story sequels, the plot here revolves around the metaphorical conflict between playing with your toys and preserving them as collectibles, though this being Lego, there's the added dimension of following instructions versus creating new things on your own. (Minor spoiler: these movies are never going to come down on the side of pristine collectors, so long as children are part of the intended audience.) In the world of Lego - or to be more precise, Lego City - there are instruction booklets not just for building, but for everything, and our main character Emmet (Chris Pratt) is ridiculously, idiotically happy to be a total conformist to every rule in the books. He is, naturally, a builder by profession, but one who always makes the sets exactly as they are supposed to be, demolishing other constructs that deviate from included instructions.
Everything changes one night when he follows a trespasser - the enigmatic, beautiful Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) - and winds up falling down through deep, brick-studded tunnels to find the mysterious, glowing "piece of resistance," a red block that instantly bonds itself to his back, designating him the Chosen One. He immediately becomes a target of the police, led by the split-personality-having Good Cop/Bad Cop (a hilariously deadpan Liam Neeson), and during a brief period of capture, learns that the seemingly benevolent President Business (Will Ferrell) intends to destroy the world in a couple of days. Breaking out with Wyldstyle's help, he will discover many Lego worlds beyond his own, and must find a way to thwart the evil plan - which involves freezing all the buildings and people of Lego City in one permanent display pose.