1. The Lego Movie is way more fun than it has any need to be. Though it never quite reaches the lunatic levels of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it has that film's same hellzapoppin' zeal, that willingness to go anywhere for a joke and that absolute insistence that it must never, ever slow down. The Lego Movie throws in so many little jokes and throwaway lines that you can almost feel assaulted: It is a movie that is constantly in a dead sprint. If you're bringing a kid to this, know that they're going to leave the theater in a buzzed sugar rush, bouncing off the walls. You'll probably be doing the same thing.
2. If you don't know the Lego entertainment universe, well, you either don't play video games, you don't have a kid, or both. It is an inventive charming place where all your favorite pop cultural heroes and villains, from Darth Vader to Batman to Harry Potter to Indiana Jones have their misadventures Lego-ized. For a good sense of how it works, here's a clip from one of the million Star Wars Lego games.
Fun, right? (They always get all the little details right.) The Lego Movie differs a bit from most of the games and videos in that the Lego characters talk in the movie, if just because a wide-release kids' film can't have 90 minutes of silence, but it maintains that goofy good cheer. This is a movie for kids made by adults who remember how much fun it was to be kids.
3. The plot is basically Brazil in interlocking blocks. The Lego world is controlled by a megalomaniacal Orwellian monster named President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) who sedates the masses with empty entertainment, flavorless restaurant chains, and constant corporate compliance. A lowly construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt, who's just perfect) stumbles across a Piece Of Resistance, which a prophecy claims will stop President Business from destroying the world. The problem is that Emmet is as dopey and lumpish as, well, Chris Pratt, so when the rebel alliance (made of Master Builders, which are just are those pop culture heroes with which Lego has licensing deals) proclaims him their savior, the appropriate amount of amusement and chaos ensues.
4. And oh, those builders. Because of all the Lego toy deals, they've got quite a roster of big names, and they all come out and have some fun. This list of those joining Emmet in his quest include but are not limited to Superman, Shaquille O'Neal, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo (the sculptor), Michelangelo (the ninja turtle), and Chewbacca (who Batman discovers is male in an unfortunate way). Batman is probably the real-life/fictional character the movie has the most fun with; Batman's heroic, sure, but he's also a little bit of a self-indulgent jerk, making him the ideal comic and romantic foil for Emmet, who falls for a new character named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). Batman is voiced by Will Arnett, which is hilarious as you imagine. The voice casting is top-notch across the board, including Morgan Freeman, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum (as Superman), Jonah Hill (as Green Lantern, brilliantly), Will Forte (as Abraham Lincoln) and Billy Dee Williams (as the only character Billy Dee Williams could play). There are more; half the fun is figuring out who everybody is.
5. The movie's structure is predictable, but it flies by so fast you won't notice or care. But as it draws to a close, and we start to get a sense of what is in fact the controlling force of this Lego universe, the movie nearly stops in its tracks and becomes something...weirdly moving? I don't want to give anything away other than to say the film takes a surprising and surreal St. Elsewhere-ian turn in a way that absolutely works, thanks in large part to an uncredited guest performance that might be the quietest, most effective work this particular actor has done in years. The movie, written and directed by the team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who also did the funny 21 Jump Street movie), keeps reminding you of what it's like to be a kid—it hasn't lost touch with that. This is a movie for kids, for adults, and for those still deciding which one of those they are. And it has the best Star Wars joke you'll ever see.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.