DirectorDaniel Junge, Kief Davidson
Release Date(s)2014 (November 3, 2015)
Studio(s)Starz (Anchor Bay)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C
It’s almost hard to believe that something so small could have such a big impact. But that’s precisely what happened in the case of Lego. Despite being created nearly seventy years ago in Denmark by Ole Kirk Christiansen, the small plastic bricks are more popular today than ever. As the toys have grown in popularity, not just among children but also adults, the Lego brand has exploded into successful movies and video games. A LEGO Brickumentary takes up the task of exploring the tiny toys’ large impact on the world.
Directed by Daniel Junge (an Academy Award winner for his short subject documentary feature Saving Face) and Kief Davidson (a nominee for his short documentary feature Open Heart), Brickumentary takes a fairly light tone and moves along at a brisk pace. The film is narrated by Jason Bateman, who never actually appears as himself. Instead, he voices a Lego figure known as a “minifig” in Lego enthusiast circles. We are given a brief history of the Lego company (rendered in stop-motion animation with Legos, of course!) from its beginnings in the 1940s to the lean times of the 1990s and through its resurgence today. The documentary then interviews and follows some loose stories and arcs of various people in the Lego community.
Brickumentary introduces viewers to a fan who went on to become a designer for the company (known as a “Master-Builder”). We meet some of the attendees of Lego conventions who enter design competitions and collect rare pieces. The film also follows the construction of, and one family’s journey to see, a life-size Lego replica of an X-Wing fighter from Star Wars which was displayed in Times Square. Celebrity Lego enthusiasts such as Ed Sheeran, Trey Parker, and Dwight Howard are also featured.
More serious subjects are brought to light when the film focuses on topics like using Legos in real-life architecture and some of the mathematical ways to determine how many combinations can be made with several Lego bricks. There is also a spotlight on an artist who recreates classical art pieces with Legos. Most affecting is the story of an autistic child using Legos for therapy. One even wishes the filmmakers had focused a little longer on some of these moving stories.
With the success of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, the connection between filmmaking and Legos is explored. We meet several independent moviemakers who have chosen to make animated films using Legos and also go for a brief behind-the-scenes visit to The LEGO Movie set. It’s all slightly meta when you think about the Lego animation which Brickumentary itself employs.
Running just over an hour and a half, the picture moves quickly and efficiently, yet this is, in fact, one of its weaknesses. No one subject feels covered completely. Some of the interviews feel cut short, especially when exploring a weightier subject. Also, the documentary never comes to a definitive conclusion about why Legos remain so popular. Perhaps there isn’t just one answer and it couldn’t be fully addressed, but the omission seems egregious. In addition, the recent tying of Legos to pop culture properties like Star Wars and Batman and these properties’ explosion into video games is completely overlooked, which seems slightly odd.
The special features are a mixed bag: short on quantity but still compelling. There are three deleted scenes, with two short bits and one long story. The most fascinating segment is the longest, which follows competitive robotic designers who utilize the Mindstorm line of Legos for their creation. It is easy to see why this section was excised, however. While interesting, this version of the toy is very specialized and might not register with what people associate with Legos. The only other extra on the disc is a commercial for Legoland Resorts and Discovery Centers.
The technical aspects of Brickumentary are decent, but not exceptional. The 1080p picture is presented in a 1.78:1 ratio. The colors are strong throughout and the picture detail is consistent throughout. Being a documentary consisting primarily of interviews is never going to require an aggressive soundtrack, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 does its job perfectly well. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
A LEGO Brickumentary ends up being a decent diversion. It is much more than just a glorified commercial for Legos which it might seem at first. The filmmakers’ passion for their subject is extremely evident and the stories the film follows are appealing enough. However, the stories never go much beneath the surface. A viewer might come away still wondering, “Why all of the fuss about these small toys?” It is not the type of film that might get many repeated viewings. If anything, it seems like it might be best watched in conjunction with The LEGO Movie as an entertaining, extended special feature. Lego enthusiasts will undoubtedly find much to love here, but for the uninitiated it may be more worthy of a rental.
- Joe Marchese