A LEGO Brickumentary is the first official documentary about the world of the LEGO brick and follows the evolution of the billion-dollar franchise, delving into the impact of LEGO and its fans around the world. Suitable for "kids" of all ages, the film explores the brick that has captured imaginations for generations and look at the fundamental question – is it a toy or something more? A LEGO Brickumentary delves into the extraordinary impact of the brick and the innovative uses for it that have sprung up all overthe world. The narrative takes us through art galleries full of LEGO creations, introduces us to Master Builders designing and creating life-sized LEGO models (as well as those who employ LEGO bricks to create their own films), leads us into the world of LEGO therapy and brings us along to meet Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLS), each with each with amazing stories to tell. A LEGO Brickumentary explores the essential nature of human creativity and the ways we seek to build and understand our world.
'A LEGO Brickumentary' is without question one of the most best movies I've seen this year, and it's a pleasure to have it in my Blu-ray collection. Directors Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson present a dynamic look into the evolution of a brand name which has recently been proclaimed as number one in the world (per Forbes and other industry magazines), and their resulting examination is close to exhilirating. As stated on the boxcover, the documentary poses a very simple question: is Lego just a toy or something more? Ninety-three minutes later, the film proves illustriously that this humble, but functional set of colorful, plastic pieces transcends mere kid's stuff. Actor Jason Bateman voices the role of an animated minifigure, and serves as host and narrator to the Lego story. The movie begins with a brief origin of the family-based company, and then introduces all those involved with the production process, including builders, fans, artists and professionals.
Of course, the sneering, black-hearted cynic within me would like to have dismissed this film as little more than an extended informercial for the Lego company. Save for a few self-critical admissions made by Lego Group executives and designers as to the faltering popularity and sales over a decade ago ("...we were actually, frankly, quite arrogant as a company to our customers..."), there is very little controversy or drama to be found anywhere in the narrative. So viewers will not be exposed to dramatizations of useless nephews and greedy step-sisters trying to take over the family business, nor will audiences be informed of lawsuits regarding patent infringements and corporate malfeasance (assuming any of these issues even existed, of course). In short, "A LEGO Brickumentary' is best seen as a in-depth celebration of the product itself.
However, even if one were to view this Blu-ray as a propaganda piece, there is no denying that the people who populate the Lego community can be nearly as interesting as their own creations. It's one thing to hoarde away "Lord of the Rings" memorabilia in a spare bedroom. It's quite another to build a massive, brick-based replica of Rivendell which spans the size of a living room. This is exactly what a certain mother of two does in the movie, earning herself considerable acclaim among fellow builders. She is just one of many personalities who have used Legos as a form of self-expression. Some of these projects are quite grandiose (classic works of art are recreated by a lawyer turned artist) while others may be of questionable taste (an online video in which minifigures demonstrate their mutual affection for one another).
The filmmakers use the design, construction and eventual display of a full-scale X-Wing Fighter as part of the narrative, with the unveiling of the final model saved for the ending. Along the way, the film shows how the act of manipulating Lego bricks play a creative and practive role in amateur film production, city planning, popular art, architectural design, robotic and space engineering, and even social therapy for autistic children. Interviews are nicely juxtaposed with close-ups of the Lego products, allowing us to inspect the details and appreciate the logistics which go into the act of creation. One particular street artist uses colorful bricks to fill in structural gaps of delapidated historical buildings, while another user builds vehicles to promote space exploration. To describe all the topics covered by documentary would be to spoil the presentation, which is as entertaining as it is informative. Yet despite all the variety, the screen time alloted to each subject matter is well thought out and keeps the film moving at an even pace. Needless to say, there are other sub-genres to the Lego phenomenon which were probably left out of the film (indeed, the deleted scenes cover several of the specialized Lego fans) but could have been made into individual documentaries themselves.
Celebrity Lego fans (including singer Ed Sheeran and Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets) are also given time to express their endorsement of the toy, describing the act of building as instilling discipline and being therapeutic. But it's the various designers themselves which are the most unabashed in their fondness for building, turning their occupation into a true labor of love. These include company employees as well as independent vendors who manufacture accessories which Lego will not, including modern weapons and military artillery. If nothing else, the movie shows a striking relationship between Lego and it's customers, in which their voices are heard and demands may met by third parties without interference by the corporation.
Now, having sung the praises of both film and the product itself, let it be known, that I have never been a true Lego fan at any point in my life. Outside of hanging out at a friend's house (a ritual now known as "playdates"), they simply weren't affordable in the household of my youth, and I was never motivated enough to want to build something practical from abstract elements. After all, why would I spend precious recreational hours building a blocky and clunky "low resolution" sports car, when I could buy a sleekly painted, scaled-down Hot Wheel which actually looked like the real thing? Similarly, those tiny minifigures with their peg-hands and stiff bodies simply did not compare to my highly articulated G.I. Joes and Mego action figures. In short, as with Lincoln Logs, Erector sets or anything else which required imagination, Legos simply weren't my thing.
They are, however, quite popular with my own kids, and the Simpsons sets and Star Wars vehicles scattered throughout my house prove it. I don't participate in the builds, but I admire the final results. Today, thanks to three trips to Legoland California, hours spent on the Lego-based videogames (Lego City was particularly enjoyable), and a few viewings of their animated videos, I, too, have developed an appreciation of this Danish toy which somehow eluded my childhood. Watching this documentary also confirms that I probably missed out.
By the end of 'A Lego Brickumentary,' I was surprised to find so much fun and fascinating content loaded within a single hour and half of viewing time. If there is ever a follow-up or sequel to this documentary, I want to be the first to review it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment presents 'A LEGO Brickumentary' on a BD25 disc, packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The disc itself is illustrated with a series of yellow pegs, giving no doubt as to the inspiration of the design. The front cover features a close up of a bemused Lego minifigure with the PG-rated catch phrase: "If you thought you knew the world of Lego, you don't know brick." Included with the Blu-ray is a coupon promoting Legoland Resorts and Discovery Center. After a few company logos, the disc opens with an animated featuring brief excerpts from the movie.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 'A LEGO Brickumentary' will fill almost all widescreen TVs with rich and satisfying images tailor-made for a program where visuals mean everything. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded video allows the audience to witness all the fine details in the brick-based structures, where all the lines, joints, pegs and holes illustrate the complexity of their designs. It goes without saying that only through high definition does the brilliance of those polished pieces of plastic shine in strong, vibrant colors. Primary tones definitely benefit from the Blu-ray picture, with eye-catching reds, deep blues, and golden yellows. To recite an old cliche, there were moments where I could reach out and touch bleached white rollercoasters and candy colored ferris wheels right appearing right before my eyes. '
Even with shots obviously taken at different locations (New York in the evening) and under different lighting conditions (a brightly lit hotel ballroom versus a curtained bedroom), the picture maintains a consistency in detail and presentation which keeps the viewer glued to the screen, even during static shots of people talking away. As expected, archival footage and older television broadcasts are cropped for widescreen and show-up grainier and blurrier than modern shots. Video segments taken from YouTube and other internet sites certainly look worse when blown up on any screen larger than twenty-four inches, but these moments are brief and used to illustrate historical points. Overall, "A LEGO Brickumentary' looks as good as its contents.
The Blu-ray feature is presented in 5.1 DTS High Definition Master Audio for the main feature, and in two-channel stereo for the bonus materials. Since the film focuses primarily on monologues and talking heads, surround sound activity is rather modest and front to rear (or vice versa) directionality is even rarer. The music score and ambient effects enhance the soundtrack in a effectively without being bombastic (for example, the recognizable "Jawas" theme is briefly heard when a builder introduces his own Sandcrawler), but it's your home theater's center channel which will be doing all the heavy lifting. Bass activity is likewise limited to the demands of the music arrangement, which has light dynamics to begin with.
Nevertheless, voices are heard with excellent clarity and range, even during interviews which obviously take place in less than acoustically ideal environment. During most documentaries, I find myself using opening up the captions in order to understand everything which is said; there was no need to do that here. In any event, viewers will probably find themselves so immersed in the subject matter that the presence any hyper-exaggerated aural stimulation will never be missed.
Bonus materials are limited on this release. A few deleted segments focusing on specialized Lego groups can be played individually or with the option to "Play All" as follows:
Bro-Lug (HD 4:42) - This excerpt focuses on an online community sepcializing with large set-builds focusing on unconventional themes such as cyber-punk.
Little Guys and Brick Films (HD 2:02) - The footage here expands on original characters created for animated short films by a few of the users spotlighted in the main feature.
X-Treme Team (HD 14:46) - This extensive segment follows a group of kids who work with the Mindstorm line of Lego toys as part of competitive robotic design and programming. While a fascinating watch, it's excision from the main feature is understandbale given that Mindstorms products deviate a bit too much from conventional Legos.
Also included as a extra is a two-minute, thirty-five second video which is basically an extended commercial for Legoland Resort and Discovery Centers.
'A LEGO Brickumentary' does everything a good documentary should: it informs, entertains, and even inspires the viewer into a deeper appreciation of its subject. I've read several books on the Lego phenomenon, including one humorous tale written by an aspiring builder, as well as another dull and dry accounting of its corporate history. This movie is far and away more engaging than anything I've read in print, and deserves the highest of recommendations.