Yes, it’s a little odd that another LEGO movie is coming out so quickly after the release of, well, ‘The LEGO Movie’ – that also features an animated LEGO mini-fig voiced by a well-known celebrity. In this case, it’s Jason Bateman (as opposed to Chris Pratt) and this is a documentary (or, as they are calling it, a “brickumentary”), not a narrative feature.
‘Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary’ (which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival) is a sort of companion piece, as opposed to direct competitor, to the aforementioned ‘The LEGO Movie’ – especially considering that ‘The LEGO Movie’ is mentioned quite a few times over the course of this film and we even see the shooting of a particular scene. (Funny, if you don’t want to be spoiled on how ‘The LEGO Movie’ ends, you probably should avoid ‘Beyond the Brick.’) Also, it’s endlessly fascinating.
I have been known to dabble a bit in LEGO building. And, for me, this is a recent phenomenon that I’ve never been able to quite fully explain. Now, after this movie, I think I can.
The film takes us through the history of LEGO (the company’s) creation -- of course, presented to us using animated LEGO. After the sometimes-tragic history lesson -- the original LEGO factory burned down three (!!!) times – we meet some of the hardcore adult LEGO fans. These are the people that travel from convention to convention, building whatever fanciful creations happen to pop into their heads. (One woman’s recreation of Rivendell from ‘Lord of the Rings’ is the most impressive.) It’s a creative outlet for people.
The thing is, I have nothing in common with these people. I had kind of hoped to have something in common, but most of the people in this movie are just so into their creations and I just don’t have anywhere near that kind of zest for building LEGO. But then here comes Trey Parker to explain it all…
(Bear with me, I promise this all has a point.)
Parker, best known as the co-creator of ‘South Park,’ is interviewed for the film. In his explanation for why he likes LEGO so much, he says that he enjoys methodically following the instructions piece by piece – that it’s therapeutic because it’s the only time of the day when he’s not being creative. This explanation hit home. (And, yes, I’m totally comparing myself to Trey Parker.) (That was a joke.) As a writer that has to employ at least a little bit if creativity from time to time, it is therapeutic to just sit there (yes, often at a local bar) and follow the instructions and not think about work.
(Also, Dwight Howard is in this film talking about how he’s a big LEGO fan – if you think all of this is dumb, you can take it up with Mr. Howard.)
My point that I promised: It’s kind of remarkable that this hobby, for so many, can be used as a way to be creative and as a way to avoid being creative. And, as we learn in the film, that seems to be a big reason for the mass appeal.
Though, unfortunately, this movie feels long. It’s kind of odd to wish that a movie that’s only 94-minutes long to trim some fat, but I could have done without knowing about a couple of the LEGO artists that we meet in the film. I mean, after meeting three or four already, I kind of get the point by the time we meet more.
One of the film’s major plot points involves the creation of a life-size X-Wing Fighter as it’s built and then put on display in Times Square. We are told by a LEGO engineer that it’s just like the one we can all buy and build at home! -- only much larger, as he taps repeatedly on the toy’s box.
(Though, he forgot to mention that the life-size version has a steel frame that your at-home set probably won’t have. I understand the physics of building something that big, but that doesn’t really seem like it’s a LEGO X-Wing. Perhaps a “LEGO plated” X-Wing might be a better description.)
Though, it’s these kind of moments that make the film seem like a commercial for LEGO – which, to be fair, comes with the territory, I suppose. I mean, if there were to be a documentary on a similarly non-controversial company like, say...whatever company it is that makes rainbows?... Well, come to think of it, LEGO might be one of the most uncontroversial companies out there so, maybe there’s not an apt comparison.
If you like LEGO (and, I do like LEGO), boy, this is the movie for you. If you are mildly interested in LEGO – at least to the point of wanting to know what all of the hubbub is about – you might start to get bored at, oh, about the hour mark in the film. Perhaps this is why ‘The LEGO Movie’ was so aggressive with its pace, because, in the end, it is just a toy – and except for the already converted, you’re probably going to be wishing for Emmet to show up and sing ‘Everything is Awesome.’
Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.