[Review] - Lego: A Brickumentary

Courtest of RADiUS-TWC
The surge in popularity in Lego in the last couple years has been a boon to old fans like me. Of course, when I started collecting, it was all pirate ships and yellow blocks with a single eye on it. Kids and adults just getting into the wonderful and bank-draining habit are spoiled for choice, with Star Wars, Jurassic World, Lego Dimensions and Lego Ideas opening up the market and the experience.

A documentary about Lego is a fine idea. And after watching Brickumentary, I feel that we're half way there. But this is not a definitive tale. It isn't even close to being an exhaustive one. It is far too smooth around the edges, and at times feels more like a corporate video from Lego than an examination of Lego. And it feels directionless, tracking multiple narratives with only a glimmer of a thesis.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were assembled one brick at a time.

The biggest issue with the film isn't really with the film. It is the narration, provided in English by Jason Bateman. It comes off as too in-on-the-joke. Bateman's delivery is too polished, and his lines lack any deeper meaning than as superficial silence fillers. A good documentary narration is meant to fill in the informational gaps left by lack of primary footage. Bateman's narration feels like a tour guide. And it's not his fault, though I would argue that he's not the right choice for the job either. Its indicative of the larger problems with the film. These lines as written as examples of how close the filmmakers are willing to get without doing anything truly substantial.

I expect as a consequence of getting full access to the Lego corporation, including its higher ups and various designers and middle men throughout the company, this is not a hard hitting documentary. Nor does it need to be. Lego has, as far as I know, never rigged an election or provided aid to the enemy. But when looking at the corporate side of things, everything is given the once over, but no more. An animation describing the founding of the company plays like something you would see on the company tour as a moving sidewalk pushes you past large windows overlooking a factory floor. They mention a time when Lego was nearly bankrupt, but don't examine why so much as get fed the feel good "Scrooge at the end of the story" morality lesson they learned to pull themselves back up. They certainly don't make clear that their money problems were largely solved by licencing the hell out of their product, not by listening to the little guy or making a computer.

Indeed, whenever the focus falls to the company, the films takes of a different narrative, one tinted rose coloured. Where fans are given big breaks and a simple building toy can solve the world's ills. The fact is, they avoid any serious talk about any hard hitting issues. Like the growing and abundant off-market products that are made Lego compatible. Or Lego's various legitimate competitors, like Megablocks, or Character Building. Or the terrible record the company has marketing towards girls. These issues are given lip service, but not explored in any significant way. Certainly this film won't result in a corporate change in how many Avengers sets I'll be able to get a Black Widow minifig in.

Where the film hits its strength and stride is when it isn't concerned with the company and when it is focused on the fans. When it is following the people who love the bricks, or the people who use the bricks in therapy, or use Lego to express themselves artistically. The film's thesis seems to be "Lego is fun" but it needs to be deeper than that. Following the real people for whom Lego is their "thing" is a close as the movie gets to having meaning and purpose. When it being oddly mean spirited, showing a bunch of social outcasts, aspies and neck beards talking about hot girls at Lego conventions (seriously, that was the weirdest, most embarrassing and tone-deaf moment of the film). The good of the film is when it sits down and focuses on something specific, like the history and influence of brickfilms, which was engaging and informative. Less so when a mere sentence is spared for the Lego man which was dropped from the stratosphere, and not a single mention of the Lego man sent into space by some Toronto teens.

I love Lego. I love their versatility and I love their simplicity. I do not like the narrowness of this film's vision, nor their overly reverential tone of the toy. I know Lego are cool, but not everyone does. Only when the film focuses on Nathan Sawaya does it feel like it expressing anything awe inspiring to a civilian audience. As it stands, Brickumentary is an enjoyable and often funny look at a good toy. But it is the documentary equivalent of rice crackers: low on calories.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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