by ,

Every bit of marketing you’ve seen for The Lego Movie features an intoxicating little song that repeats the words “everything is awesome!” and, you know what, it really is. Coming from someone who expected greatness and had their expectations surpassed, I can say with pure delight: The Lego Movie is so much more awesome than you could ever imagine. And imagination is exactly what The Lego Movie is all about.

For a movie to have a supportive message without being manipulative is a rare little feat, and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller — the two dudes behind the great animated works Clone High, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and the live-action 21 Jump Street — have achieved it. As much as The Lego Movie is a colorful movie in which the most ordinary Lego figure, Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), is mistaken for the Special Master Builder and launched into a quest to save the world from the evil President Business (Will Ferrell), it’s so much more than that. This is a movie that understands just how important creativity is. Its entire emotional core hangs on the notion that every single person in this world has the ability to create, and that imagination must be nourished if we are to have lives that aren’t devoid of fun.

The reinforcement that anyone can be special, even if they think they’re the most ordinary person in the world, is the best message that a movie can package and sell to kids (and maybe to adults like myself as well). Miller and Lord dodge a lot of the pitfalls that a movie like this could be accused of, most importantly that of being called an excuse to sell toys to kids. They manipulate the words product placement in every way possible, most of the time to joke around. Everything from the box set covers to showcase new worlds (like Middle Zealand, Cuckooland, the Old West and more) to watching the actual Lego part numbers pop up as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) analyzes what to make from all her surrounding Lego pieces — just like the wise man, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), leading their group — plays with the notion of advertising for the company. Even more interesting about The Lego Movie‘s presentation is that there isn’t an ounce of differentiation between “boy toys” and “girl toys” (with one small exception in the Duplo Alien toys made specifically for kids).

But more than anything else, The Lego Movie is just plain fun. Every bit of it contributes to just how fun it is. The computer-generated animation that makes every inch of this Lego world — even the explosions and ocean waves — look like it was actually built with Lego pieces, Mark Mothersbaugh’s electropop score, the hilariously fitting voices for every Lego figure (Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and Will Forte all voicing former characters and Shaq voicing himself were especially fun for losers like me), the insane collection of characters they’ve placed within (Unikitty, Benny the ’80s Astronaut, Batman, etc), witty jokes that often slide into a self-awareness that a film of this nature should have, and the wildly compelling narrative that takes you almost entirely out of this world until it gut-punches you with just how real it all is. Maybe it comes from growing up playing with Legos and being a creative type all my life, but this is the kind of movie that kids deserve. In a time when everything feels like it’s taking a dive towards conformity, it’s wonderful to see something like The Lego Movie that seems to genuinely want to inspire creativity in the kids that watch it.

The Lego Movie is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo and for rental or purchase through Amazon Instant Video.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; starring Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman; 100 minutes.