A Satisfying Build.
DIRECTED BY KIEF DAVIDSON, DANIEL JUNGE/2015
Piece by piece, A LEGO Brickumentary builds a cohesive look the history of the popular toy, and the current subcultures that have emerged around it. Technically the second “Lego” movie in so many years, this documentary should not be mistaken for a follow-up to the smart and super-successful family comedy The Lego Movie, from filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. That’s not to say Brickumentary isn’t entertaining or lacks appeal for the product’s primary target age group. Indeed, A LEGO Brickumentary is more colorful, engaging, and interesting than most things found in today’s toy store. And it’s also a pretty fun movie.
Hosted by a personable Lego “minifig” with the hair of Harry Potter and the voice of Jason Bateman, we are taken on an educational tour that is at once fully sanctioned and endorsed by The Lego Group of Denmark, but also taken down some surprising alternative avenues. Primary among these is a visit with a military enthusiest who’s built a business manufacturing and selling Lego minifig versions of real life combat weaponry – the kind of stuff that the official Lego company won’t touch.
Additionally the film also details a point in time circa 2003 when the whole company was on the brink of collapse due to, as it states, a kind of internal arrogance.
Only by listening to and complying with Lego fans both young and old was the brand able to not only survive, but thrive. Upfront, it’s stated that currently Lego is the number two largest selling toy brand on the market. Not bad for a pile of colorful snap-together building blocks.
As the proverbial baggies of different narrative parts are torn open and dumped out onto the filmmakers’ floor, we watch as everything comes together: The story of the company, profiles of adult superfans (known as “AFOLs” – Adult Fans of Lego) and professional “master builders”, a trip to the annual Brick-Con event, looks at the emerging trend of Lego filmmaking (including an elaborate garage-based fan film, and the affore-mentioned Warner Brothers hit The Lego Movie – which was mostly digital, but still fully Lego in spirit).
One through-line documents the company’s massive undertaking of creating and transporting the world’s largest Lego model construction to date, a full size Star Wars X-Wing fighter. The culmination of the sequence movingly crosscuts with an autistic boy’s triumphant completion of his own store-bought X-Wing kit.
It must be said, however, that Lego’s strong movement into the arena of outside brand licensing is perhaps the one major stone that goes unturned. While Lego Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, and Harry Potter kits, among others, are matter-of-factly mentioned, Lego on the whole is presented as more of a wholly open-ended product than it perhaps is anymore. The licensed brands subsequent spin-offs, including movies and video games (Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, etc.), are only peripherally present.
Which isn’t to say that such kits aren’t awesome – when I was a young Lego aficionado, I would’ve paid all my pretty pennies for an honest to goodness Lego Batmobile. Instead, however, I made a couple of my own – both the 1989 movie version, and the 1967 TV version. In a time preceding today’s age of numerous “specialty parts”, certain design liberties had to be taken. My childhood Batmobiles are still with me today, whereas my own son’s storebought Batmobile kit of two years ago has long since been disassembled, its hundreds of individual parts now either assimilated into other things, and/or vaccuumed up.
It’s true that A LEGO Brickumentary can’t help being a glorified toy commercial. But, as far as glorified toy commercials go, it’s as inclusive and open to fan-led movements, outside businesses, and alternative phenomenons as any such documentary that is based upon what is now being called “the world’s most powerful brand” can be expected to be. Much of this information has been presented previously in other more “nuts and bolts” educational programs; therefor filmmakers Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge are to be commended for their fresh take, having made a film that’s satisfying to AFOLs and KFOLs (Kid Fans of Legos) alike.
In keeping with the toy it’s built around, A LEGO Brickumentary is an appeallingly colorful, seamless construct that engages throughout, but nonetheless reassuringly sticks to the directions of how such movies ought to be assembled. Most of all though, it’s fun, stays together well, and at least for a while, satisfys like a new toy.