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Reel Critics: All parts fit in 'Lego Movie'

Never has there been a movie with a list of characters that includes Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, Shaquille O'Neal, Michelangelo, Gandalf, Cleopatra, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, evil business tycoons, pirate captains, SWAT teams, a good cop and a bad cop. But then along came a wild and crazy film called "The Lego Movie."

This hilarious production contains all these disparate roles and many more. They're written into a jovial screenplay sure to entertain young and old. The frenzied humor comes at a mile-a-minute pace. The snappy dialogue is full of sarcastic references to politics, history, art, pop culture, sports and business. The kids will laugh at one aspect of a gag while the adults howl at another level of meaning.

Director Phil Lord ("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs") teams up again with partner Christopher Miller to deliver a financial and artistic success. Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell head up the accomplished actors voicing major characters. The use of low-tech animation only adds to the comic charm of the whole enterprise.

Witty and joyful, this uproarious spoof will remain one of the year's funniest films.

—John Depko

*

'Monuments' not timeless art

The real-life "Monuments Men" were a group of about 350 American and Allied art curators, restorers and historians charged with wresting a staggering trove of confiscated art from the Nazis before it was destroyed or absorbed into personal collections, notably Hitler's.

The book was adapted for the screen by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who gave us the excellent "Good Night, and Good Luck." Alas, their earnest intentions turned the film into more "Ocean's Eleven" than "The Dirty Dozen."

Clooney heads up a small team — Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville — who magically tool about Europe in a jeep in pursuit of evil Nazi art thieves. There is plenty of good-hearted banter and noble speechifying by Clooney, stressing how vital it is to preserve the "greatest historical achievements known to man."

That's all fine and good, but we need more suspense than smiles, more grit than glamour. Each character, including Cate Blanchett's comely Jeu du Paume museum worker, is given their little "aha" moment for the camera. I would have liked to have seen more focus on the art itself and the daunting search for its rightful owners, many of them Jews.

"Monuments Men" made me want to watch again the superb "The Train," a 1964 version of this chapter of history starring Burt Lancaster. It's the cat-and-mouse thriller Clooney should have striven for.

Sorry, George, guess you can't win 'em all.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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