17 April 2014

Some People Just Can’t Lego

When The Lego Movie came out this spring, it prompted debate about its political implications. Kyle Smith at the New York Post offered a round-up of different interpretations, including:
The Economist noted that whatever its story might imply, “The film is also an hour-and-a-half-long commercial for costly toys made by a multinational corporation based in Denmark; a commercial, moreover, that people must pay to see.”

Almost alarmingly full of spectacle and movement, The Lego Movie offers us storytelling irony with sprinkles on top and let us eat it, too. It made fun of the clichés of “chosen one” plots, and it still showed the designated hero saving the day. It let us laugh at the notion of a made-up prophecy that must be true because it rhymes, and it let us believe wise words must be true because they come in the voice of Morgan Freeman. It offered a chance to laugh at cookie-cutter, feel-good pop culture, and it costarred Lego Batman.

The political “message” of the movie came in how its chief villain is Lord Business, who has also made himself President Business. Different critics emphasize different parts of his symbolic meaning, depending on how they feel about business or, at this historical moment, Presidents. In fact, he’s a plastic avatar of a suburban father who doesn’t have time to play with his son (though he does have time to play with his Legos). “Business” here has no economic or political import; it’s just what keeps Dad in the office.

The end of the movie assures us that it’s crucial to express yourself fully and flexibly, and spend time with your family, as long as you do that with lots of Legos. Lots and lots of Legos.

(I have to acknowledge here that I hardly ever played with Legos at home. We were a Tinkertoy family.)

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