Lego is one of the more ubiquitous brands when it comes to toys. In fact, it’s probably a good bet that the vast majority of people around the world have at least a passing familiarity with the building blocks, either through the myriad Lego sets or the many recent Lego video games, which is why it’s refreshing to finally have a film about Legos. With The Lego Movie, the toy that enthralled so many imaginations will mesmerize them again in a whole new fashion as Legos comes to life in all the ways that fans would expect and in other ways that will surprise everyone. But if this film were simply about living Legos, then it would be simply good. What makes this film genius is how it captures every stage and every way people, young and old, play with Legos, thus managing to reach out and touch audiences in a universal, but also very personal way.

Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is an ordinary Lego construction worker living in a modern day Lego city, set in a Lego world. Emmet, like every other Lego citizen, lives his life according to pre-written, step-by-step instructions (not unlike Lego play set instructions). However, his routine life is thrown for a loop when he meets Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), who is searching for a relic called the Piece of Resistance. Not only does a legend foretell of the Piece being discovered by the greatest Master Builder, but it’s also necessary to save the world from the evil Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), who wants to use something called The Kragle to essentially destroy the world. When Emmet stumbles upon the Piece, he’s scooped up by Wyldstyle to join forces with the blind seer Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) as well as other Master Builders, including the likes of Batman (voiced by Will Arnett). It’s a race against time as Emmet must find his inner Master Builder and hatch a desperate plan to foil Lord Business before it’s too late.

Almost every aspect of The Lego Movie presentation is perfect. No detail was overlooked, and every Lego piece and character is an exact replica of its real life counterpart, even capturing the little facets that bonded a generation. Older Lego builders will find it hard not to gasp when the Lego astronaut from the 80s makes his first appearance, helmet snapped apart at the chin. Beyond the looks, the filmmakers also wisely animated the Lego characters in the same way that fans would have as toys. So when the film enters a Western themed area, watching horses hop around unable to move their posed legs is an indescribable joy. And then there’s all of the little clever sight gags that are too numerous to mention, but they always stay true to the logic of the Lego world, and easily keep audiences engaged and marveling. The only criticism with the visuals is when there’s too much going on, like during action sequences when characters need to fight. The Lego Movie has such a strong and deliberate stop-motion feel to it that it can become very difficult to know exactly what’s happening with too much flying around the screen for audiences to process. The Transformers series learned from their mistakes after the first film and remedied the situation by slowing down time in the action scenes. That would have definitely helped here.

The story is also very rich, with enough character and characters to keep audiences interested no matter their age. Emmet is a great everyman, making him easy for moviegoers to root for. Moreover, he’s supported by a great cast, which includes all of the properties that Lego has rights to. This is probably the only movie that will ever have Gandalf, Dumbledore, Batman, Superman, Robin Hood and more in one film. And while the comedy might seem chaotic on paper, in practice it all comes together smoothly. This is writing at its best.

Best of all, however, this film reminds audiences that Legos are powered and brought to life by the imaginations of human builders. As a nice touch, The Lego Movie doesn’t simply present the story as taking place in some alternate universe made of Legos. Instead, it incorporates mundane items from the human world, like Band-Aids and nail polish. Even the dreaded Kragle is something all audiences should be familiar with. It’s in these moments (and in the bigger moments later in the movie) that the genius of The Lego Movie exists, because these are the same experiences viewers had playing with the toy, incorporating whatever props were around to supplement the Legos. In effect, Legos bridged worlds, sucking builders into new realities. The Lego Movie continues that tradition, transporting audiences back in time to their childhoods, and it shouldn’t be missed.