Usually, the merchandise tie-in, toys and product promotions occur immediately before, during or after the release of a major motion picture.

With "The Lego Movie," the toys were there first.

Lego (from the Danish, "leg godt" (play well) is the brainchild of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter in Denmark. From 1949 to 2013, an estimated 560 billion Lego were manufactured. The colorful interlocking plastic bricks and accompanying gears, figurines and parts are connected imaginatively to construct vehicles, buildings and displays.

"Imagination" is the key to "The Lego Movie," as well. The movie barrels along at a blistering pace, with blindingly-fast action, a riot of colors and often clever quips (the "Piece of Resistance"; "The Sword of Xact O," as in the X-Acto precision model-making craft knives) to mask a storyline as unstable as a poorly-constructed tower of Lego bricks.

Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (both, co-directors, "21 Jump Street," 2012; "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," 2009) co-direct from a screenplay they co-wrote from a story they co-wrote with Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman (co-story writers, "Hotel Transylvania," 2012).

While "The Lego Movie" seems to have utilized stop-motion animation, it is computer-generated imagery. Characters from some of the themed Lego sets, including those from "Batman," "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" and "The Hobbit" figure humorously in the "The Lego Movie" storyline.

There's a twist, which you may not anticipate, and which won't be revealed as it's a plot element that nearly redeems the one hour of relentless action. I had difficulty getting in touch with my inner child to enjoy the movie. I would have preferred a slower pace to fully enjoy the assembled Lego pieces and sets. I guess, there's always the Legoland theme parks for that.

The voice talent is quite good, especially that of Morgan Freeman, as Vitruvius, a mythical figure. (Of course, what would the Winter Olympics be without those Visa ads voiced by Morgan Freeman?).

Chris Pratt is Emmet Brickowoski, the protagonist. Will Ferrell is the voice of Lord Business- President Business-The Man Upstairs. Liam Neeson is Bad Cop-Good Cop-Pa Cop. Other voice talent includes that of Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Will Forte, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Williams and Shaquille O'Neal (as Shaq),

The Lego Group's motto is "det bedste er ikke for godt" (the best is never too good).

Unfortunately, that motto cannot be applied to "The Lego Movie."

"The Lego Movie," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for mild action and rude humor; Genre: Animation, Action, Comedy, Family; Run Time: 1 hr., 40 min.; Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: There are four versions of the song, "Everything's Awesome," during "The Lego Movie" and closing credits.

Box Office, Feb. 14: "The Lego Movie" was presidential during the President's Day weekend, presiding again at No. 1, two weeks in a row, $48.8 million, and $129.1 million, two weeks; besting two remakes, "About Last Night," opening at No. 2, $21.5 million, weekend, $26.4 million, since opening; and "RoboCop" $21.5 million, weekend, $26.4 million, since opening;

4. "The Monuments Men," $15 million, $43.6 million, two weeks; 5. "Endless Love," $13.3 million, opening; 6. "Ride Along," $8.7 million, $116.1 million, five weeks; 7. "Winter's Tale," $7.7 million, opening; 8. "Frozen" (two Oscar nominations: animated film, song: "Let It Go"), $5.8 million, $376 million, 13 weeks; 9. "Lone Survivor," $4 million, $118.4 million, eight weeks; 10. "That Awkward Moment," $3.3 million, $21.4 million, three weeks;

Unreel, Feb. 21:

"Pompeii," PG-13: A romance set against the 70 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Dylan Schombing, Jean-Francois Lachapelle, Rebecca Eady, Kiefer Sutherland and Carrie-Anne Moss star in the action drama.

"3 Days to Kill," PG-13: Kevin Costner stars as a Secret Service agent trying to reconnect with his daughter. Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard and Connie Nielsen co-star in the crime thriller.

"The Wind Rises," PG-13: Legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed Japanese airplanes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jennifer Grey, Stanley Tucci, Elijah Wood, John Krasinski, William H. Macy, Mandy Patinkin, Martin Short and Werner Herzog are among the voice talent.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and wdiy.org, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@tnonline.com. You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes