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The Lego Movie (* * * out of four; rated PG; opens Friday nationwide) is a spirited romp through a world that looks distinctively familiar, and yet freshly inventive.

As classic toy fixtures for more than 70 years, the colorful plastic interlocking Lego bricks are instantly recognizable. And the computer-generated world created by writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) is one that makes use of these readily identifiable parts in appealing, buoyant and often surprising ways. Using a detailed, tactile style of computer animation that also resembles stop-motion, the film's look suits the aesthetics of Lego constructions.

The joy in a bucket of toy bricks lies in the panoply of possible shapes and structures, and the filmmakers palpably convey that sense of imaginative creation.

It's an eye-catching environment, though at times the whole thing becomes a bit too noisy and frenetic. But overall, the experience is giddy fun for the kids, and the irreverent dialogue and gently pointed satire is amusing for the adults who accompany them.

This action-packed story is the first feature-length movie composed entirely of real and computer-generated Legos. This all-Legos-all-the-time universe is especially striking in the way it depicts smoke and storm-tossed seas. Who knew those little building blocks could simulate undulating waves?

At the center of the family-friendly fun is Lego mini-figure Emmet Brickowoski, voiced by Chris Pratt. As unremarkable as they come, he unquestioningly follows orders at his humdrum construction job, enjoys the inane TV show he's fed daily and sings along to the obnoxious but catchy song on the radio. Though Emmet appears to be a blank slate, underneath his bland exterior is a sweet yearning. He consults a manual for pointers on how to win friends, to little avail.

Everything changes when Emmet inadvertently stumbles on a strange object and meets the rebellious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). He learns he might be "the Special," in accordance with an ancient prophecy that says he will save the world from impending doom.

Emmet is trying to foil a plan for world domination set in motion by President Business and enforced by his swivel-headed, schizoid enforcer, Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) and legions of robot clones.

Household items, such as Q-tips, Krazy Glue and nail polish remover, are regarded as relics from another civilization and play key parts in the zany but unevenly paced tale, which has whiffs of Toy Story, Wreck-it Ralph and even The Matrix.

Those who have played with the small Danish brick-like toys — or the more recent video games — will no doubt get a particular kick out of this ingenious movie.

Even for those who aren't Lego fans, the spry adventure saga offers plenty of laughs and clever allusions, as well as a sometimes-subversive skewering of modern conformity.

A warmhearted, goofy celebration of creativity, The Lego Movie builds on a sweet tale of finding one's inner imaginative child.

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