We spent the first afternoon of February vacation doing the same thing many families are doing this week: Watching The LEGO Movie. Although I love LEGO, my expectations for the movie were fairly low. I mean, we’re paying to see a really long toy commercial, right? So I was surprised that we were entertained, amused, and even awed by the film. We chose The LEGO Movie over seeing Frozen in the theater, and I don’t have any regrets. However, I think we were the right audience for The LEGO Movie, and not everyone fits into that category. In fact, as we walked out of the theater, we heard one mom say, “That was the longest hour and 40 minutes of my life.” Read on for all you need to know to determine which category your family fits into.
A very ordinary, rule-following construction worker named Emmett accidentally finds the piece de resistance. The piece becomes attached to his back, marking him as the “chosen one” according to a prophecy foretold by the wizard Vitruvius, fittingly voiced by Morgan Freeman. (It's all very reminiscent of The Matrix). With the help of a Master Builder named Wyldstyle and her friends, Emmett must use the piece to foil the wicked world-freezing plans of the villain, Lord Business.The question: Can the wildly unprepared and unimaginative Emmett live up to his newfound special status, save the world, and wow the girl? The answer is predictable, but it's a fun ride anyway.
What I Liked:
- Visually, the film is awesome. Creating and animating a world made of LEGO is no small feat. Undulating brick waves, a plastic version of the Wild West, the wacky and wonderful land of Master Builders, the costumes, very creative uses of LEGO pieces – all super cool.
- It was nice to see a strong, non-princess female lead character, even if they did make her the object of the hero’s affection. (See earlier note about The Matrix.)
- LEGO tossed in plenty of self-deprecating humor. I always appreciate when "The Man" can point out his own flaws for the amusement of others.
- The plot twisted and turned toward the end, giving deeper meaning to all that came before it. The ending was sweet, funny and poignant.
Is It Really for Kids?
I spent the first 15 minutes simultaneously guffawing at jokes only the adults in the audience understood and wondering, “Is this movie really meant for kids?” Ultimately, I thought there was plenty for the kids to enjoy in the film, and my children walked away saying, “That was really cool.”
That said, the movie is rated PG for a reason, and it is clearly not intended for all the little tykes we saw in the theater. My kids think the movie is appropriate for ages seven and up, and I’d say that’s about right. All children are different, though, so I would use this as a rule of thumb: If your child loves LEGO and can read the instructions for and independently build LEGO structures, the movie is probably a good bet. At least s/he will get most of the humor and appreciate the story. But, (and this is a big but), the action is extremely violent. The characters are blinded, beheaded, defaced, permanently frozen in place, and blown to pieces. It is somehow OK because there are constant reminders that the characters and their worlds are just little plastic playthings, but if the movie were all live action with flesh and blood humans, I would never let my kids see it. I don’t think I would even want to watch it (I'm envisioning Saving Private Ryan all over again).
The LEGO Movie did sometimes feel like a commercial, but there were nobler messages beyond "buy me, buy me, buy me": Everyone is special, talented, and unique in his or her own way. And although individuality and creativity should be encouraged and celebrated, they need to be balanced by learning to work cooperatively with others to achieve a common goal. Those are thoughtful and admirable messages for a commercial, I’d say.