From the perspective of someone whose childhood did not include Lego bricks, A LEGO Brickumentary starts off as mildly interesting, but quickly becomes something of a chore. It falls prey to a frequent documentary problem — the idea that the viewer is just as fascinated by the topic as the filmmaker is. From the outside looking in what we have here feels a lot like a 90-minute promotional film — one that is riding the coat-tails of The LEGO Movie (2014) — which is probably fine if you’re a fan of the toy, and is undoubtedly the bee’s knees if you’re a shareholder in the company. If not…well, that’s another load of bricks altogether.
Now, I have nothing against Legos — apart from them turning Cypress Gardens into an overpriced theme park — but I also have no interest in them. It is, I suspect, simply that they weren’t something that was even on my radar at an early age. I didn’t have them. I didn’t even know I was supposed to want them. Oh, I had Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, an Erector Set (which defeated me totally) and my personal favorite, an American Skyline set. But Legos were something neither I nor any of the kids I played with had (or if they did, they hid them from me). The upshot of this is simply that — with no nostalgia for the product — there’s just not much here for me. It’s easy to say that the fault lies with me and my deprived childhood (we could perhaps drag my parents into this). But at the same time, isn’t it the duty of an informational documentary to engage a broad audience — to convey why these things are wonderful and endlessly fascinating? That said, I’m sure that Lego fanciers will be more than happy with A LEGO Brickumentary.
The film dutifully — and with a certain forced cute-ness, heightened by having Jason Bateman voice an animated Lego character — charts the history of the company (though if it actually notes when the product really took off in the U.S., I missed that). But its greatest interest — at least when it isn’t enthusing over its tie-in status with Star Wars — lies in dealing with AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego). This is pretty self-explanatory stuff and is also mostly what you expect. The most interesting is an artist who creates his works with Legos. Some of his works — at least when he’s creating original art — are indeed striking. They’re certainly worlds away from the more easily anticipated hobbyist elements. Unfortunately, the creations that attempt to replicate famous works of art (a Rembrandt self-portrait or Munch’s The Scream, for instance) fall soundly into the hobbyist realm — on par with reproducing the Taj Mahal in sugar cubes.
Other aspects of the AFOL are touched on over the course of the film, including a psychiatrist who uses Legos in his treatment of autistic children. In terms of individual stories, the movie is fine. And apart from the overdose of the cute factor, A LEGO Brickumentary is hard to fault as a basic nuts-and-bolts documentary work. My only reservation comes back to the basic question of whether or not you really want to watch people make elaborate creations out of Legos for 90 minutes. Rated G.