Directed by: Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson
Produced by: Brendan Kiernan and Justin Moore-Lewy
Narrated by: Jason Bateman
Written by: Daniel Junge, Davis Coombe, Kief Davidson
Run time: 92 min
The word “Lego” has come to mean something different over the past decade or so, compared to when this 40-year-old was a wee lad. Back in the late 1970s through the 1980s, Lego bricks were the simplest of toys, a means to create whatever the imagination could dream up using these easily-connected bricks. Maybe you’d want to follow the instructions on a kit, but the fun in that was always limited. No, most kids around our neighborhood were trying to make their own version of a Millennium Falcon, or maybe a dinosaur, using a hopelessly limited number of pieces.T
Fast-forward to 2015, and Netflix appears to be full of cartoons based on pop-culture characters given a Lego spin. Batman and the DC heroes, Spider-Man and the Marvel heroes, Star Wars – all and many more are the subject of Lego cartoons, video games, clothing, etc, etc. There’s a Lego Movie complete with a super-catchy Tegan and Sara soundtrack. The world has gone Lego mad in a way that seems to go against the original, keep-it-simple ethos of the Danish company. Right?
Well, actually, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that people are constantly looking for new uses for the bricks, as A Lego Brickumentary details. No, because in fact the company took the actual toy back-to-basics a decade ago after nearly going bust due to a far-too-heavy reliance on easily-assembled movie-related kits. As a company man says in this movie, Lego fans found them too easy to put together, and non-Lego fans didn’t want to put them together at all.
So, while the world of Lego has expanded drastically in recent years, the toy has returned to it’s simpler roots. That’s the magic formula that has led to massive success of late. Indeed, it’s pointed out here that Lego is the number two toy company in the world, and it only has one product. That’s frankly unprecedented.
It’s that success that has led to a call for this documentary movie hot on the heels of the actual Lego Movie and, for the most part, it makes for entertaining viewing. Yes, it comes across as a giant ad in places but, if you go in knowing that, it’s still enjoyable without breaking into cynical territory.
We learn about the many stop-motion movies that are out there and the fact that The Lego Movie doesn’t qualify because it’s a CGI film. We enter the world of the AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego) and see them going comic-book-fan-level crazy at conventions and competitions. We explore some of the bona fide art that can be created with the bricks and, most importantly, we learn the beneficial effects that working with Lego as a team can have on children with autism.
Through it all, Jason Bateman makes for a chirpy, whimsical guide (in Lego form, naturally) and, by the end, we feel like we know everything we need to about this beloved childhood toy. Nostalgia pulls us through the less-than-captivating moments, and our inner child wants to get up and build. Job done then.
A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY will open in Denver on Friday, July 31st at the Sie FilmCenter.