A Lego Brickumentary Dir. Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson

[The Weinstein Company; 2014]

Styles: documentary
Others: The Lego Movie, Marwencol

Describing why his company Brickarms makes supplemental products designed to be compatible with the Lego building system, Will Chapman says, “the Lego world is so adaptable — it’s so modular — that Lego doesn’t get to decide. We get to decide how we want to build with those elements.” Yes, he’s justifying why his company makes realistic weapons and military paraphernalia for Lego minifigures, but he still makes an excellent point. The nature of Lego’s building products — construction toys — inherently emphasizes and encourages creativity. This documentary from filmmakers Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson explores the many ways that creative minds both inside and outside of Lego have used the toy to develop unique forms of expression.

According to the film, Lego is the second most successful toy manufacturer, behind only Mattel. But unlike Mattel, which makes a variety of different types of toys — including powerhouses like Barbie and Hot Wheels — Lego only makes construction toys. In fact, the construction toy segment seems to be defined almost exclusively by Lego (and a few cheap, inferior imitators). But the Lego brand stretches beyond mere toys into the realm of comic books, video games, amusement parks, TV shows and — ahem — a pretty damn awesome movie. Chapman is just one of the many A.F.O.L.s (Adult Fan of Lego) interviewed and profiled in the film as it explores the growing subculture(s) born out of Lego.

The film largely refrains from a trite recounting of the history of Lego, though we are treated to a brief recap of the birth of the company and an explanation of how it survived the dark ages of the 90s. This is all accompanied impressively by the cutesy Lego animation we’ve come to expect from videos about Lego. Instead, the doc treats us to many of the ways in which people are using Lego to push the boundaries of creativity from both within and without the company. We get to see the construction of the largest Lego model ever (a replica X-wing fighter), we watch a Lego fan see their design realized through the Cuusoo/Ideas product line and witness the incredible creations of Lego superstar Alice Finch. But in addition to these forms of expression, Legos are also being used for science. There’s a University of Copenhagen mathematics professor who’s trying to discern the exact number of different combinations of Lego bricks possible, and a therapist who uses Legos to help build social skills among children with autism.

By focusing on these people, and more importantly, their Lego creations, the film becomes more a celebration of human creativity than an advertisement for Lego bricks (though after watching, who wouldn’t want to pick up a set or two). A Lego Brickumentary is a film that makes us question what a toy can be, what art can be, and the limits of our own imagination and potential. Ten years from now, if Lego has their way, they may not be a brand anymore. They could transcend that label and become a medium.

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