Is It A Movie, or Is It A Message? Or Is It Both?

It’s official. I have given up.

I’m over politics and politicians. I’m over Fox News. I’m over stupid people who blather away mindlessly on television with nothing intelligent to say other than to further their own selfish agendas. Okay, I suppose anyone who crafts their own message in any kind of media has their own agenda to move forward. But any more it seems like most of the content that gains any traction in the public eye is “all sizzle, no steak”, to coin a phrase. There’s no actual intelligence shared, no insight to digest–just a bunch of yelling and fist-waving and foot-stomping and head-shaking. And though I want to engage in the same, I am going to attempt to frame this pseudo-rant with at least some structure and some sense of intelligence. But I’m pretty angry, so we’ll see how I do.

Most of you readers probably don’t know much about me or my personal life, so I’ll share just a little. I have three wonderful sons–ages 16, 12, and 8–and they all love Lego. For the past couple of months, my youngest son in particular has been counting the days until The Lego Movie hit the theaters. Last Friday was opening weekend; I took my youngest on Friday night, just him and me, merely because he couldn’t wait until Sunday when the rest of the family could go. So he and I have seen this movie twice, and it’s entirely possible that I enjoyed the movie even more the second time than I did the first. My husband and our other boys loved it as well; as shocked as I was that my oldest even wanted to be seen in public with the rest of us–not to mention at a “kid’s” movie–I was even more shocked that he came out loving the movie as much as everyone else did. He even recommended it to his friends! High praise, indeed.

To give you a bit of background regarding what I was expecting out of this movie, I should mention here that I’ve seen a lot of really bad Lego movies. The vast majority were nothing more than thinly-veiled commercials for the Lego-kit-du-jour. Bad animation quality, nonexistent story, lousy acting–honestly, I’m surprised anyone even categorized them as movies. So when publicity surrounding The Lego Movie started up, I was prepared to spend the entire movie sitting quietly in my seat and trying not to cringe. But to my surprise, it was a very entertaining experience! There was lots of humor (for both kids and adults), plenty of action and explosions (for both kids and adults), and even an actual storyline–and a good one at that! I had no problem recommending it to any friends who asked, and I noticed many of them went to see it and also loved it. It made $69 million over the weekend, the second biggest opening ever for a February release. Popular? You bet.

So what’s got me so worked up?


First of all: there isn’t even a convincing argument to be had here. The speaker gets all riled up about how this movie is a bad influence on children, and tries to defend his position, but just moments later he admits, “I don’t know if kids look at it that way, though.” All in under two minutes.

Next: (spoilers from here)
He implies that the big scary President Business is taking over the city for his own evil purposes, going so far as to compare this movie to the Robocop remake which opens next week. But what’s actually happening is that President Business is the personification of the dad who has always “controlled” the city (they’re his “toys”), and Emmet is the son who is trying to do new things, which his dad doesn’t like. The good-versus-evil plot is the story in the boy’s mind. He’s PLAYING. GOD SAVE US ALL.

Sorry, got a bit carried away there.

Third: I truly think this speaker is reading way, way too much into the live characters. The whole reason for President Business’ name is because Dad is a businessman. He doesn’t let the son do what he wants, so he’s therefore evil. That is IT. The boys is using his (say it with me) IMAGINATION. What a terrible, terrible thing. It must be STOPPED.

Oops. There I go again.

Finally: the concept of Guilt By Association. The talking heads on Fox go on and on about how Hollywood has always been dominated by the Far Left, and they list plenty of other movies (which, incidentally, are not the one they’re supposedly discussing here) which show how terrible and evil Big Business can be. And since the antagonist in The Lego Movie is named President Business, it must therefore be insulting to all red-blooded capitalists out there. Case closed.

Well, Fox Business, I have news for you. I consider myself a capitalist. Yes, I understand that language evolves, and the term “capitalist” may not mean to you what it does to me. But I am self-employed, I have a variety of income streams (with varying degrees of success), and I believe that part of the American Dream is to be free to do what you love. If you don’t want to work for someone else, you shouldn’t have to. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to work, but you should be able to do it on your own terms. Money is not evil, success is not wrong, and you don’t have to be poor and suffering to call yourself a good and virtuous person. These days “capitalist” usually just means “greedy bastards”, and sadly there are lots of people out there who have no problem perpetuating that stereotype. But I am a conservative and a capitalist, and I think the criticisms leveled at this movie are overblown at best, and downright hateful at worst.

The saddest thing of all is that these commentators are encouraging adults to “vote with your dollars” and avoid going to see this movie, when it was definitely the most fun my family had all weekend. The storyline was engaging enough to satisfy a huge range of ages, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Even though that catchy little tune hooks itself into your brain for days, it’s all about how everything is awesome when you’re part of a team, when you’re living a dream. And best of all, it rekindled my kids’ imaginations. For a long time, Lego has moved away from the simple, basic building sets, to more themed sets. But surprisingly–particularly for a movie that will likely sell mass quantities of Lego toys–watching the boy at play in the movie inspired my somewhat-more-purist boys to combine the Lego sets they already had in ways they hadn’t thought about before. They didn’t come away from that movie with a negative opinion of business or capitalists; they understood the story about a boy and his dad. They came away with a renewed sense of adventure and permission to try new things–to play. Which, ironically, are characteristics that could eventually lead to financial success in entrepreneurial endeavors, should they choose that path. They could actually become “good” capitalists. And regardless of what they become later in life, they will remember the experience of our family going out together and having fun, and coming home and playing together and having more fun. That is the message of this movie.

  1. Peggy Coquet

    Well thought out and well expressed, Lisa. I probably won’t see this movie 😉 – but if the message is, “Play! and use your imagination!” I’m for it. I do find that I almost instinctively recoil from movies starring commercial products, even though I too have been a capitalist. I just can’t get past that oily feel of advertising.

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