The LEGO movie Review

The LEGO movie was AWSOME.

Well at least that is what the theme song said.  Over and over and over again.  Not just LEGO, but everything is awesome.  Everything.

Think about that and be dismayed.

Don’t ask the circumstances where I came to be surrounded by hundreds of screaming ten year olds kids and their fathers.  Normally I watch children’s movies at home and in private. Anyway, my kids talked me into going.  That would sound better if they weren’t both old enough to drink.

I had no expectations going into the theater.  Once it started to fill up with younglings I began to feel a little out of place.  Once the previews started I knew I was in for it.  It was going to be a little more juvenile than I thought.  But that’s ok, I love LEGO and am willing to dive in and embrace my inner child.

At first I found the special effects a bit difficult to adjust to.  This is mostly due to my adult imagination, as a kid I had no problem visualizing Legos doing all sorts of improbable things.  Like moving and talking. As an adult when I see an animated movie I expect to see the animation imitating reality.  But not too closely.  When the animators try too hard to imitate reality it gets kind of creepy.  This movie was weird because the animation was so good it looked real.  But LEGO’s look kind of fake in real life.  Some of it may have been stop motion animation, I couldn’t tell.  All I am saying it is took me a while to become invested in the characters and the story.  Was this due to their overly realistic portrayal of moving blocks? Obviously my imagination is not what it was 40 years ago.
Every children’s movie has lessons for children to take home with them. The LEGO movie is no exception.  Happily, it ended up kind of twists the lesson a little.    It starts out with a little song that super-glued itself into my brain. At first I thought this song would be the entire theme of the movie.   Later I found that this was not the case.

From The Lego@Movie

Song by Tegan and Sara & the Lonely Island

“Everything is Awesome,

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team

Everything is Awesome when you’re living out a dreams

Everything is better when we stick together,

Side by side you and I gonna win forever?

Let’s party forever

We’re the same unlike you, you & me we are a working in harmony

Everything is Awesome,

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team

Everything is Awesome when you’re living out a dreams….”

And on and on and on……

And on.

At first this creeped me out.  It made me think of artificially happy little brainwashed LEGO-zombies going about their day in some kind of twisted workers’ paradise.  Like a cross between old Soviet Russia and Pleasantville, or Barney sorts mail.  Everyone is happy following instructions, working as a team, building things, then destroying them just to start over again.

Later the song becomes more sarcastic, but in a LEGO way.

The hero of the story (Emmet), is an ordinary and obnoxiously upbeat construction worker.  He learns that he is supposed to be “The special” and is happy enough to go along with the gag, until he is expected to do something useful, like build something without instructions.  Then he begins to learn that there are people who can build anything they want without instructions, (Master builders).  It seems that there are two classes of Lego people, those who can only build by following instructions and happily working in teams.  And lone highly creative individuals who can make anything, but don’t do so well in teams.   In the end, Emmet ends up breaking this dichotomy into a third way.  He shows there is value in making crap without following instructions.  And creative master builders can work in teams when they have to.  This process is explored all the time in offices all across America and gives inspiration to Dilbert comic strips every day.

I can certainly identify with the division of the two Lego classes.  And I am glad that the movie tries to encourage children to have fun and build whatever you like, even if it is as dumb as a double decker couch.  When I bought my kids Legos one of the first things we did after building a LEGO creation, was to “lose” the instructions.  I hated having to stick to instructions.  I found them offensive and oppressive.  Ikea toys.

Back to the dumb and disturbing soundtrack….  Later in the movie when Emmet and friends are trying to infiltrate the robotic state controlled instruction assembly line, which is overseen by Lord Business, they sing that annoying song to distract the robots.  The robots mindlessly sing along allowing the heroes to continue to attempt to sabotage the “system” turning the whole concept on its head.   The song turns into a weapon of distraction.  I just love that.  I imagine storm troopers in the Death Star singing the company song every morning like Wal-Mart employees.

“Everything is Awesome,

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…..

We’re the clones and we are Awesome!

It would be easy to say that the LEGO movie is simply a long advertisement for LEGO toys.  But most movies that have toy spinoffs seem forced, like it a marketing gimmick to squeeze out a few extra bucks.  But LEGO is a toy that kids already play with, and have been successful for decades.  Making a LEGO movie seems natural.  I also think it helps to teach kids that there other things you can do with LEGO than simply build toys by following the instructions.  When I was a kid LEGO was just a bunch of blocks that you built stuff out of.  It didn’t come with much in the way of instructions, just some basic ideas.  You were forced to use your imagination more than now.  Now every LEGO toy seems to be built for a specific function.  It is important to show that it is not only possible to build anything you can imagine, but it is encouraged and fun.

The LEGO movie also likes to poke fun at LEGO corporate culture. The LEGO Corporation sells the product which includes parts, a box, and some instructions.  There must be a large part of the company spends a lot of time and effort on creating detailed instructions, doing market research, designing specific sets for specific toys, etc….  The movie shows kids all kinds of stuff to purchase and build, but then tells the kids to not use the instructions and let your imagination be your guide.  Also the bad guy is Lord Business.  While this would seem at first to be a poke at the 1%, but I believe it is really just taking a shot at anyone who tries to force conformity, rules, and stifle creativity on others.  This could be the government, corporations, teachers, parents, or any authority figure.  And I am a fan of poking fun at authority figures.  I don’t see any fail in their marketing strategy.  It is all win-win.

I would give the movie quite a few out of many stars.  I recommend the movie for Children, and their parents.  If you’re an oldster like me, I would wait for the DVD or blue-ray rather than going to the theater.  The big screen didn’t add much to the experience.  Sure the special effects were Awesome, but come on were talking about little plastic blocks.

Oh, on a different note.  I have a suggestions for LEGO….

Wouldn’t it be great if LEGO would sell its parts by the pound like Jelly Belly Jellybeans?    I imagine a LEGO store with a zillion bins that you can pull individual parts from, then you just pay for the total weight of your purchase at check out.  My first purchase would be to buy a few pounds of Emmets.  Then put them all in a really big Erlenmeyer flask with a stopper on the top.  The label would say “Open for emergency AWESOME”


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