A LEGO Brickumentary (2014) / Documentary
aka Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary
MPAA Rated: G, suitable for all audiences
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Jason Bateman (narrator), Jamie Berard, Alice Finch, Nathan Sawaya, Adam Reed Tucker, David Pagano, Daniel LeGoff
Director: Kief Davidson, Daniel Junge
Screenplay: Daniel Junge, Davis Coombe, Kief Davidson
Review published August 2, 2015
2014's The LEGO Movie is a work of fiction that could be slammed as just a two-hour commercial for the Danish toy product so ubiquitous, it hardly needs promoting. But, it is actually so entertaining, funny, and original, that many consider it one of the best films of the year, despite it being nothing but extoling the virtues of a product. The unfortunate thing for the documentary about them, A LEGO Brickumentary, is that it isn't entertaining, funny, or original to rise above the infomercial feel of it. That's not to say it's a bad film, but it's to say that, in the direct wake of The LEGO Movie high we've all experienced, it feels redundant, because they are both delivering the same message: LEGO is awesome for x,y, and z reasons. Except that The LEGO Movie is made by real filmmakers for everyone, whereas A LEGO Brickumentary feels like it's made by fans of LEGO for fans of LEGO.
That said, if you're a LEGO fan, it will likely hit the spot to see all of the clever and artistic LEGO creations, as well as learn more about the history, proliferation and educational influence of the company. It covers a lot of different areas, so there's bound to be some aspect you may not have known about LEGO before going in. The doc is made by Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge, Oscar nominee and Oscar winner, respectively, for their documentary short films.
A LEGO Brickumentary is narrated by Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses 2, This is Where I Leave You), who is really only on board because of his name, but he does do a fine job in the reading. He doesn't appear on the screen, represented as a stop-motion-esque animated LEGO mini-figure that guides us through the film. While this does reduce the celebrity spotlight of bringing Bateman in, it does fit in with the LEGO branding (it sure feels like a carryover from The LEGO Movie), as well as it makes it a documentary that's more kid-friendly by having a cute and comical animated figure to follow instead of a guy who makes movies most are too young to have seen yet. What may not be particularly kid-friendly are the mammoth artistic creations that have been put together by Master Builders (AFOLs, or Adult Fans of LEGO) that we see in the film, as LEGO bricks are expensive enough to purchase just to make a small-scale piece, and probably costs more than what many children's parents make in a year to make a larger scale building, or a replica of Rivendale from the Lord of the Rings movies.
Though bringing in some celebrities who enjoy LEGO products, such as British pop singer Ed Sheeran, "South Park"'s Trey Parker, and NBA star Dwight Howard, offer not much to the piece other than to counteract the "geek factor" of the film's regular attendees at BrickCon, architects, and engineers, the film is more interesting when it offers some of the more positive aspects of the toy, such as bringing together of people who might be loners otherwise through building together, especially as a therapeutic tool to get kids with autism to focus for a spell on something, and even interact with other children in the process. Not that dozens of other toys couldn't do the same, but certainly LEGO should boast if they have the opportunity. Less interesting is a visit to find a college math professor trying to deduce the amount of ways six LEGO bricks can be put together (nearly a billion, it turns out), or seven, or eight.
A LEGO Brickumentary is very lightweight and largely forgettable, but, like the toy itself, it is colorful, well assembled, pretty fun, and keeps your interest for a respectable length of time, even if the experience is fleeting.
©2015 Vince Leo