If there's one idea that A LEGO Brickumentary wants to express, it's that those little plastic bricks aren't just child's play. The documentary about everyone's favorite construction block toy seeks to educate audiences about the limitless possibilities contained within the very simple design. Just add imagination and see what happens. Directed by documentary vets Keif Davidson and Daniel Junge, with narration by Jason Bateman, A LEGO Brickumentary opens up the world of LEGO, along with the people and mini-figurines that populate it.
The origin story of LEGO is neatly, and quickly, illustrated in a nifty LEGO animation sequence. The Danish company was the brainchild of Ole Christiansen in 1932, and found its name in the conjunction of leg godt — "play well" in Danish. This also is the company's ethos and driving spirit, as the film illustrates.
The doors are thrown open not just behind the scenes at LEGO, but also at the Brick conventions where AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) can gather with other AFOLs or TFOLs (Teen) or KFOLs (Kid) and share their fandom and their creative work. Some of the better known AFOLs featured in the film are South Park's Trey Parker, singer Ed Sheeran, and NBA player Dwight Howard. There's a whole LEGO fan subculture, with its own lingo, and many of these fans have managed to turn their passion for LEGO into something more. The film celebrates LEGO's willingness to embrace fan-created work, even accepting designs for new models and kits through a fan-voted contest.
The film argues that the tiny bricks aren't just for kids anymore, but the film itself feels like a junior documentary of sorts, a sort of Docs 4 Kids introduction to the form. Bateman's narration is embodied in the form of a Lego mini-figurine, and the story beats are carefully spelled out in bite-sized chunks. There's no real conflict in the film, aside from a moment when LEGO wasn't profitable (gasp!) because it strayed too far from the original mission, forgetting about user creativity. In some ways, it feels like an educational film to be shown in classrooms or children's museums. In hopping from topic to topic, the structure detracts from the narrative linearity, and a loose framing device about a giant X-wing Starfighter made out of LEGO doesn't quite cut it.
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The message about individual creativity within a universal form is inspiring, but it does get repetitive cycling through each individual example. One of the most relevant and interesting points is developed toward the end: that LEGO itself is a closed mathematical system, but also a universal language that can unite across borders, cultures, and abilities. If there's one thing about LEGO that we learn, it's that the possibilities are endless.