The LEGO Movie review

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EJ Mangahas has sent me this review of The LEGO Movie:

A Movie Well Played - A LEGO Movie Review by EJ Mangahas

I was lucky enough to catch the press screening of The LEGO Movie last February 5 here in Manila. If you are like me you were a bit skeptical about this film. I was really afraid that this film about our beloved hobby would be a total disappointment. I mean, toy-to-film adaptations aren’t really the best way to make a nice film and to think, this is a totally branded film. However, that will all change after you see the film – guaranteed.

Brought to you by 21st and 22nd Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the LEGO Movie follows the adventures of an ordinary LEGO Minifigure, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) as he is mistakenly identified as “the special” by a group of master builders led by the prophetic Vitruvius – which is brought to life by the golden voice of Morgan Freeman – who are hell-bent to put a stop to President Business’ (Will Ferell) and his henchman Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson) tyrannical reign over the LEGO universe. Emmet and Vitruvius are accompanied by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a free-spirited female master builder, Batman (Will Arnett), Benny the Nineteen Eighty-something spaceman (Charlie Day), a jaded pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and the ever-so-jolly Unikitty (Alison Brie). Also appearing in the film are the rest of the Justice League led by Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) and Wonder Woman (Colbie Smulders). Central to the film’s plot is the Piece of Resistance, an object that Emmet accidentally finds which is capable of stopping President Business’ mysterious Kragle weapon.

LEGO

The setting takes place in Bricksburg - a city in the LEGO universe. Inhabitants of Bricksburg are “instruction-loving” citizens which happily obliges to the rules that President Business sets. They routinely live their lives by listening to same song, watching the same recycled trash TV material, and engaging in acceptable nay, government sanctioned activities. Indeed, this set up doesn’t allow them to discover the wonders of creativity and self-thought as they constantly just chew on what’s being fed to them. Unknown to them also are the different LEGO realms like the Old West, Pirate’s Cove, Middle Zealand and the “lawless” Cloud Cuckoo Land, which President Business likes to keep separate from one another.

While it is easy to dismiss the LEGO Movie as a kid’s film, it is something that adults will equally enjoy as it doesn’t talk down to them as an audience. In fact, while the movie is generally funny for all ages, some of the humour used will go over a normal kid’s head. Not only that, it tackles issues like oligarchy and conformity which are pretty grown-up topics. I love it that the LEGO Movie is a film about big business and how it can take over every aspect of a person’s life (from the media to services, consumerism to privacy) produced by LEGO and Warner Brothers which are both big businesses. The irony in that cannot be ignored. The movie brilliantly injects satire into the smallest of moments. While you will find yourself laughing at joke after joke, you will also get a moment of realization that maybe the joke’s on you – that it is funny because it is very real. This is the aspect of the film that cleverly uses the source material – LEGO – as an unlikely medium to portray very disturbing social realities.

LEGO

But that is just one aspect of the film. In another aspect, it reveals LEGO as a tool for endless creativity. While technically a branded film, it is not afraid to poke fun at LEGO and take a slight jab at AFOLs for taking the toy too seriously; that while adults can enjoy the hobby, the toy is still ultimately for kids. My fellow AFOLs will enjoy the subtle references to everything LEGO in the past years shown in the film. From instruction manuals to part numbers, to retired sets and figures, you will have a blast trying to spot these hidden gems that only AFOLs will understand.

On the technical aspect, this film is really impressive. While it uses CGI, it incorporates real builds and creations that anyone (with the right amount of bricks) can easily imitate. According to a Warner Bro. executive, this film utilized 15 million – that’s right million – actual bricks. It is also a nod to the thousands of “brick films” (fan-generated LEGO stop motion clips) found online, only this time it is done in a larger scale. You will notice too that all the movements of the bricks and figures are faithful to the actual physics of the toy which makes it even more relatable. While it was expected that LEGO will use most of its properties (like Space, Castle, Fabuland, Blacktron, etc) in the film, it is also a treat to see Warner Bros use their licensed properties like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and DC. (This is technically the first time that the Justice League appeared complete in one major film and Wonder Woman’s debut on the big screen). There is also a cameo of a bunch of much-loved heroes and their iconic vehicle from a galaxy far, far away. This for me was the biggest surprise in that aspect because their license is owned by rival Disney Studios.

The LEGO Movie

Voice acting-wise, this film showcased some surprising talents from big Hollywood names. We all know that Liam Neeson and the Morgan Freeman can narrate, but this is the first time that they flexed their vocal chords for a film as actors. In an interview, Morgan Freeman admitted to the challenge of being funny and acting with his voice which turned out pretty effective as his character Vitruvius delivered some of the movie’s most memorable punch lines. Liam Neeson was impressive as he was able to juggle to different voice in his character as Bad Cop/Good Cop.

I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express. As an AFOL dad myself, this film is particularly special for reasons I cannot discuss now as it will spoil the whole film. So if you’re an AFOL, this is a must-see for you not only because it is about LEGO but this movie is about you as well. You would never expect a film with the title “The LEGO Movie” to be brilliant in so many levels in both the story and the production. The film really does offer something to all its audience, this elevated itself from being just a kid’s film to a genuine family classic that everyone can enjoy.

For more on the only LEGO-exclusive community in the Philippines head over to The Philippine LEGO Users Group on FB https://www.facebook.com/PHLUG?ref=ts&fref=ts and PHLUG.net

60 comments on this article

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By in China,

Sounds great but it's a shame that the movie won't come to China until April(at least).I wonder did any Star Wars characters appear in the movie?

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By in United Kingdom,

That's good, because I was hoping it would be good for a pre-teen age range as well as younger and older audiences.

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By in Netherlands,

Nice review. I'm taking my son to the preview, which is coming sunday overhere. Can't wait to see it! Although I will visit the Dutch spoken version, that's easier for my 8 year old :-) Maybe I'll watch the movie again in English, if it is as good as the reviews say...

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By in Belgium,

Interesting review Huw. Looking forward to see this film.

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By in New Zealand,

According to the worldwide release dates we will be the last one on earth to get it... 17th April... Welcome to New Zealand! i'd be interested to know the reason behind. I guess it's for school holidays.

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By in United States,

"I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express."

Is...is that suppose to be a good thing, or are you being sarcastic?

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By in Sweden,

It's been getting very good reviews my mainstream film critics as well (such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter), so it seems like it's a huge crowdpleaser no matter if you're a kid or a grown-up, an AFOL or not! Very excited!

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By in United States,

I'll be seeing this Saturday the first showing where it is really cheap. I would see it Friday, but I have one college class that is right in the middle of the day. I'm getting so fidgety just waiting this last week to see this movie. It's great to hear that it surpassed expectations. Can't wait!

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By in Australia,

And so begins the two month countdown until I can see it! I mean, I can understand why, (the April release in Australia will put it just about perfectly in time for the next school holidays) but that doesn't make me feel any better about it. Oh well, at least it'll be worth the wait!

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By in United States,

Getting VERY fired up about the film (hoping the weather allows it)! Everything is Awesome!

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By in United States,

Trying to keep my expectations in check. But I will see it.

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By in United States,

Were there any Bionicle references?

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By in United States,

If you really want to know some of the characters, IMDB is updated. Warning, it may spoil some surprises.

Great review.

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By in United States,

"I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express."

^Sarcasm maybe?
I would compare it to Toy Story 2 the way it is fast paced and funny but that it still has a message and a lot of heart.
Also, you may want to remove the cameo spoiler, it might ruin the surprise for lot's of your readers!

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By in United States,

@bty8 - I also saw the movie on 1 February. Three SW characters show up in the movie, one is even voiced by the actual actor from the original SW movies! It is a fun bit piece.

@maelstromkid - I didn't notice any Bionicle references in the movie, but I am not up on my Bionicle.

There are lots of fun LEGO history and fan jokes that flash by quickly, so that it doesn't take away from the moment for those who miss them. It was great to see Speed Racer and Fabuland and others in a particular moment.

I have already seen professional critics point to this movie as comparable to Toy Story in terms of legacy, which is interesting.

Rumor is that Warner Bros. is already giving the green light toward a second LEGO movie.

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By in United States,

"I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express."

So...the movie was terrible?

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By in United Kingdom,

So excited! Everything is awesome!

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By in United Kingdom,

Excellent review, thanks! All the things an FOL would want to know, described really comprehensively, yet without anything given away (except little things we'd want to know, like the characters from a galaxy far, far away being in it - @bty8, the answer was in the review).

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By in United States,

Right now: 100% on Rotten tomatoes after 26 reviews, with an 8.4/10 rating.

Comapred to Toy Story: 100%, 77 reviews, 9/10 rating
Toy Story 2: 100%, 162 reviews, 8.6 rating.

So close to that ballpark, hope the sequel can follow and be as great.

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By in Canada,

@ maelstromkid
I got to see an early screening, and there IS 1 reference... I won't spoil what, but it's actually a very interesting reference. Keep your eyes peeled though, because the reference only appears for a split second ;)

Great review Mangahas, I couldn't have phrased it any better! Thanks for posting Huw!

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By in United Kingdom,

Without wishing to open the can of worms on the Simpsons again, if this film is anything like the Simpsons Movie, it is will be a success. It sounds to me as though it is, so that is excellent!

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By in United States,

I'm excited to see it! Just wish the Star Wars cameo comment had been left out. I would have much rather that been a surprise. Thanks for the review!

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By in United States,

"I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express."

So...the movie was terrible?

You beat me!

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By in United States,

I was lucky enough to see a early screening this last sat. I too was worried for the fact that I was excited for the movie. I hate when you hype something up in your head and when you finally get to the actual event it doesn't live up to your hopes. This did not happen with The Lego Movie. It was much more than i was hoping for.

There were times when only our row was laughing (mostly filled with our lug members) for the AFOL jokes that were added.

Great story lines, amazing animation and effects. It was in 3d and it was well done on that front, though some of our club said it made it difficult to see some of the backgrounds.

Fun all around.!

I can honestly say I am going back this friday. For more than the minifig! The first time I was too busy watching the plot to see the amazing buildings and lego world. You could pause this movie pretty much anywhere and awe over the scenery.

See it more than once!

And while Space jam is campy fun. Polar express is super creepy animation and modeling. SO I would compare this to movies a that did a bit better. Lets say up with the likes of Dreamworks and BlueSky films.

Anywho thanks for the great review

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By in United Kingdom,

Just booked my tickets for this Saturday. I don't know who's more excited; me, the wife or my son!

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By in United States,

I also saw the screening last Saturday in LA, it is simple AWESOME!!!.

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By in Philippines,

Thanks for reading the article guys. :)

As for the films I compared it to, the choice was personal. Space Jam was big here in our side of the world as we are a basketball crazy country and as a parent, I was really touched about the message of Polar Express. These two films are one of the first ones I "shared" with my son when he was old enough to watch alongside with Toy Story which I failed to mention here.

Excited for you guys to see the film this weekend. Will watch it a 2nd time with my son and wife and a 3rd time in 2D to just appreciate the builds more. :)

- EJ

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By in United States,

Polar express does have a great message I just wish they would have realized that while motion capture is a great tool for animation, you still need to animate on top of it.

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By in United States,

I can't wait to see more Unikitty. Go Team Unikitty. Unikitty... how it just rolls off the tounge. It makes you excited just to say it. Definitely channeling the pink pied one.

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By in Germany,

The Rotten Tomatoes score is a lot higher than I would have expected. Great!

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By in United Kingdom,

I have no doubt that this film will be an animated classic alongside the likes of Space Jam and the Polar Express.

That's an interesting choice of films to reference, neither being considered animation classics! Without having seen the film I can't really comment on a more appropriate reference but the two films you've mentioned don't appear to do it justice or I'll be disappointed by all the dead eye animation and inexplicable basketball players!

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By in United States,

It's already been noted, but Space Jam a classic? You just through all of your credibility out the window!

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By in United States,

Thanks for providing this review! I admit, I was worried this movie would be a lame joke fest whose sole redeeming feature is being LEGO-branded, but am now pleasantly surprised that it is, apparently, a brilliant and hilarious film. :D Very excited, hope to see it this weekend.

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By in United States,

Loved the movie!!! I saw it on Feb. 1 and I laughed throughout as did my buddy who isn't in the AFOL community. See it, you won't regret it!!!

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By in United States,

Seeing the movie tomorrow, on opening day. Can't wait.

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By in Netherlands,

Excellent review! I just came back from the movie theater, and I must say...it was a great surprise, love it!

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By in United States,

There's a AFOL Group in Manila?
What happen to the Philippine Brickster?

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By in Philippines,

Thanks for reading the review guys! :)

@welovelego, yup PhLUG is the only LEGO-only group in the Philippines. :)

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By in United States,

Loved that in the Regal Cinema that I went to had a add for Kreo! (how ever you spell that)

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By in United States,

Saw the movie yesterday. It's awesome. I'm looking forward to them making a sequel.

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By in United Kingdom,

Saw it today. As my son now keeps singing.... everything is awesome! Great film.

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By in United Kingdom,

i also saw it today and was dreading a packed cinema …

There was about 20 people in there don't think people realised it was out today (well weekend preview)

great film i really enjoyed it the kids loved it and so did my wife.

my little man promptly started singing "everything is awesome" when it finished

8/10

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By in United States,

I wasn't real excited about this movie to be honest. Till this morning. I had seen the sets and wasn't impressed. It just looked like more ways for LEGO to get in my pocket. I wasn't happy about the use of BUTT a couple times in the commercials. Then I saw it was opening today. So I looked and saw the reviews were all great and I checked a site that gives details on language and content because I didn't want my kids seeing a movie full of rudeness and language or adult humor I don't want them using. Anyway it was all positive and the use of words or statements I wasn't really keen on where all in the commercials and not used much in the movie other than that.

So I showed the kids the commercials asked if they were interested and off we went to the theater. I laughed and laughed it was really a great flick. I was a bit disappointed one of the reviews I read gave some spoilers about what happens close to the end. Anyway overall my kids loved it and have been singing everything is awesome. My AFOL kicked in and now I want some of the Emmit sets. I really was impressed at the guilty of the movie and the fact they didn't try and scare kids like most movies have to do especially Disney. Anyway I was really pleased I went and took the family.

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By in United Kingdom,

went to see the movie yesterday with my other half
we both enjoyed it even with the ending which was not what we expected
there was a lot of laughing going on in the cinema
even though most of it was adults as the kids would not understand the jokes
the movie went really quick which I think is a sign of a good movie
I will not give anything away so I don't spoil it for anyone
but my other half (who is 61) said I hope they make a follow up
so all afol of lego should go
im going again today with 5 grandkids ages 3-11 so should be fun but expensive

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By in United States,

The movie was way better then I expected. I couldn't believe the reviews on rotten tomatoes till I saw it myself. It's a great story that connects with all of us, after all it's the human connection that makes great stories great.

When can we assume people have seen it and start talking about the ending? I felt like Will Ferrell's character and I are two peas in a pod and I was personally very moved/convicted by it. I wondered if it moved anyone else.

I had a great time building with my two kids when I came though.

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By in United States,

I'm with you, Ballbuilders. I found myself literally sweating with some semblance of shame when I saw myself in Will Ferrell's character. It really is a thought-provoking movie for those of us who are overly serious about our builds.

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By in Philippines,

SPOILER COMMENT

@MeckoGecko @BallBuilders: I was wondering to myself how my 4 y.o son would react to the film after I saw it during the press screening. I took my wife and son to another screening last weekend. I felt sinking in my chair when my wife looked at me during THAT scene... a very accusatory and piercing look. No reaction from my son whatsoever. Then when the movie ended he said: "Daddy, will you share with me your LEGO like the Daddy in the film...?" All I could do was hug him tightly.

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By in Taiwan,

i don't get it,why isn't there any star wars characters in the movie?

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By in Canada,

I went to see it yesterday with my (almost) 3 years old son.

The movie was great (plus, my son sat still for the first hour, so I got to enjoy most of it, and he only spent the second half moving seat in our entirely empty row).

The reveal did prompt quite a reflection in myself. While my son is not yet a master builder (he only plays with minifigs when I build sets, sometimes clicking a brick or two when I ask him), I do have a bit of a Lord Business streak in me (minus the budget and the gigantic basement; just too bad), which I think I may need to keep in check later on as my kids (I also have a 1 year old daughter) grow up and start taking a more marked interest in their father's toys.

I can't wait to get it in Blueray and do freeze frame to analyze all the builds we can see.

I also can't wait for someone to try replicating the movie in "real" stop-motion. I'm sure we'll see some team effort somewhere come up with a full-length replica over the next 10 years or so (or maybe I'm too optimistic?).

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By in Canada,

Eric: Star Wars is owned by Disney. The movie is made by Warner Bros. These two companies are direct competitor. That's why most of the "licensed" characters come from licenses that WB already owns.

But where did you hear or read that there was NO Star Wars character in the movie?

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By in United States,

I was so happy when they put a bionicle reference in this movie!

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By in United States,

Lego's large & now they're in charge 'cause there's no stopping them now!

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By in United Kingdom,

I was worried that the movie would be too much like Clutch Powers, but this review really clears it up for me.

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By in United States,

I loved the movie, and can't wait until spoilers are no longer necessary so AFOLs can compare notes

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By in United States,

Space Jam? I had to chuckle at that. The movie is excellent. I will definitely see it again. I want to see it again real soon to get another minifigure before they run out.

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By in Canada,

Went with my wife and m'y two teen! ! E verybody enjoyed it. A must see. M'y favorite is the classic spaceship. Will buy once available on DVD.

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By in United States,

I have to say, even though I am more of a Burton film person (which this is anything but!), I thought it was downright spectacular. Before seeing it, all The LEGO Movie sets looked, well, disappointing, but after watching it, I kind of want them all! The characters are fantastic! (especially Unikitty)

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By in United States,

Just got back from the movie, now I can read this article and all the comments. When Emmet said, "I have no instructions, what should I do?" I burst out laughing because so true, just recently, I had said this to myself when I knocked my Sopwith Camel off the shelf... (I know, I know, instructions are available online even if I couldn't find my copy. But at that moment, that was my initial reaction in horror staring at the crash!) :-)

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By in United Kingdom,

Well, I saw it yesterday, and it was really, really good. Very funny, but cleverly written, with a clever twist at the end. As for SW voices, there are 2 original cast voices involved. I won't say any more.

Just try and avoid IMDB,com, for its forum seems to be over run by a good many idiots who are eager to pan this film for their egos sake. The humour in this film is not to be taken serious. It pokes fun at everything, including itself. If you've ever played any of the computer games, you'll know what I mean.

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