If You Build It, They Will Buy
Even more than The LEGO Movie unalloyed panegyric of a company that needs no puff, A LEGO Brickumentary is ninety minutes of PR. Which does not mean that it is not fun, in parts, but that the overkill does become too much of a muchness.
There can be few places and people on the planet that do not know the interlocking blue, red, white and yellow plastic bricks and action figures and their later assembleable environments and accessories. This Tribeca Film Festival official 2014 selection hurriedly covers the fortunate then unfortunate then fortunate again Danish carpenter who started the now multinational phenomenon. Of equal potential interest but just as quickly glossed over, are the facts behind the company’s little-known near bankruptcy and spectacular success in reinventing itself by switching from aloof insularity to fan- (AFOL, Adult Fan of Lego) and user-based participatory innovation.
There is much footage of talking company heads, directors and workers of one department or another, and of geek freaks whose obsession with the bricks has in some cases become their profession in thinking up, designing, building, “mindstorming” and testing new directions. Some trot the globe to Brickworld exhibition fairs, where the public gets to play hands-on with the latest or to display their own amateur skills and constructions, participate in Vegas-style competitions and possibly even have their own ideas taken aboard, as with the skyscraper “architecture” of Adam Reed Tucker.
The “guide” through the wide range is Jason Bateman, in noseless plastic incarnations as the voice of one or another of the figures that populate their sets. His participation is not consistent, disappearing as he does for such long stretches that he is forgotten. And while the boyish enthusiasm is not grating when he does come around again, the concept or gimmick is cutesy and condescending promo more than not.
Although amazingly surnamed Dr. Daniel B. LeGoff attests to the inroads Lego allows his Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Yale School to make with autistic youngsters, and although autistic Adrian Pitt is a home-schooled example who has made great strides by using the bricks, the boosterism goes on to extol the “more than a toy” as near man’s greatest invention since sliced bread. Claimed uses include: therapy; animated movies, preliminary mockups for space probes and planetary rovers; Harvard models for traffic and pedestrian circulation as well as light distribution in city planning; skyscraper and roller coaster construction; introducing serious art to the general public not at all interested in serious art; understanding creativity and the world; and others.
Co-directors and -writers (the latter with Davis Coombe) Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson deserve a pat on the back from the company they celebrate; whether from moviegoers, is debatable.
The Lego process and phenomenon are covered, if -- necessarily -- skimpily. But there is no intrinsic reason for its makers or fans to be any more interesting than, say, people bonkers over Dale Earnhardt, philatelists, dumpster divers or Lionel train fanatics, and they are not, although they take up a lion’s share of A LEGO Brickumentary. Not everything needs meaning or explaining. Toys will be toys; let them.
(Released by Radius TWC and rated "G" by MPAA.)