It feels wrong that a kids' movie, based on a toy and almost entirely filmed in the Lego medium, should remind one of RoboCop.
But even in its capacity as a feature-length product placement, The Lego Movie weirdly hits some of the same satiric notes as Paul Verhoeven's ultra-violent 1989 classic.
The story is set in a rigidly controlled urban Lego environment where a dictatorial leader named President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) demands everyone live by a booklet of instructions. Failure to do so has unspoken but dire consequences.
All that is OK with Emmett (Chris Pratt), a pleasantly dumb construction worker easily distracted by the banal, comforting culture of his world: The earworm in everybody's skull is a fiendishly catchy tune Everything Is Awesome. The populace is distracted from the primary-coloured tyranny of the place by numbskulled TV shows along the lines of Honey, Where Are My Pants? (a line quoted as much as "I'd buy that for a dollar" was in RoboCop).
On a deserted construction site, Emmett is bewitched by a lovely rebel named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and a new world literally opens up beneath him when he accidentally discovers a mysterious plastic entity called the "piece of resistance" that threatens President Business's totalitarian reign.
Together, the mismatched pair go on a whirlwind adventure through several Lego realms. To evade the president's fascistic enforcer Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), they team with a host of rebel "master builders' including the wizardly blind sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders) and a curiously neurotic Green Lantern (Jonah Hill).
It emerges that President Business's master plan is to simultaneously destroy creativity and individuality with a secret weapon called "The Kragle." (Suffice it to say: this entity owes its inspiration to cinematic forerunners including Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Zardoz.)
The Lego Movie is a surprisingly sophisticated, kid-friendly movie, containing a bit of deft satire, and a fun plot twist with religious overtones. It's technically impressive too, considering that its stop-motion animation is done in the medium of Lego, including stormy Lego seas and fiery Lego cataclysms.
Parents anticipating a 101-minute Lego informercial can give thanks to writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) for a movie that delivers a healthy helping of insouciant cheek to go with its relentless action and slapstick comedy.
One can only hope next week's remake release of RoboCop delivers us something half as daring and unexpected.