The Lego Movie: Real Movie or Giant Toy Commercial?


Yes, this is one of my “wet blanket” articles, but damnit, somebody’s got to be the wet blanket around here.

I’ve been trying to gauge the general reaction to the trailer for the Lego movie, now titled The Lego Movie, that dropped a few weeks ago, and what I’m seeing is a little worrisome. I’m sure what I see is not quite universal, but the needle seems to be hovering somewhere around “positive.”

Which, in all fairness, I understand. The movie looks like a lot of fun. I might even go see it. Also, it’s literally a giant toy commercial and oh god corporate America and maybe the Apocalypse.

It’s important to note upfront that the movie genuinely looks like a lot of fun. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are talented folks; they did a killer job adapting Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and allegedly followed that up with a fun updating of 21 Jump Street.* I didn’t see that one, but sure.

That they’re shockingly good at taking cynical projects and breathing life into them doesn’t change the fact that this is, in fact, an incredibly cynical project. As I said, this is a 90-minute toy commercial with a feature film certificate hung on its wall.


DISCLAIMER: Legos don’t hold a particularly nostalgic place in my life. I messed with them when I was a kid, sure, but I’ve never been one to get all warm and fuzzy at the memory. So I’m not susceptible to the tug of nostalgia where this is concerned. Others, it seems, are.

I will cop to enjoying a few of the Lego videogames from time to time. I don’t think I ever cared about one enough to finish it, but there’s a certain jovial tone to their enterprises that’s undeniably engaging, if only on a surface level. Like I said, the movie seems to share this at least — I’m sure it’ll be fun to sit through.

But for this viewer at least, that fun is going to be laced with a sort of resentful cynicism that what I’m watching is perhaps the most corporate thing ever. Conceptually speaking, The Lego Movie is not only in the same category as something like Battleship, it’s technically even more explicit in its marketing aims.

Actually, I’m not sure separates The Lego Movie from something like… oh, I don’t know. The Wizard? I mean, other than The Lego Movie looking quite a bit more competent on a basic aesthetic level. Like, there will be jokes that actually work in this one. You know, this probably isn’t going to be a fun comparison for anybody to make.


Actually, let’s just forget I brought this movie up at all. Hey, remember when we were all making fun of this?


Jeez, the product placement in that flick was out of control. Well, guess what? This isn’t even product PLACEMENT anymore. The Lego brand is literally in the title. In fact, it pretty much IS the title. That’s a pretty elite level of shamelessness. One I’m sure nobody else anywhere will look at — assuming it’s successful — and decide to emulate.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Lego is only one of many brands that stand to benefit from this. I’m sure they haven’t shown them all yet, but DC alone looks to make a killing. Not only is The Lego Movie a feature-length movie entirely revolving around a toy brand, it seems to be packed with characters that are, in and of themselves, brand names.


And overexposed ones, too. No more Batman for fifteen years kthxbye.

This is one of the more irritating things about the direction Lego has gone over the years. Although the toy ostensibly stands for inspiring creativity in the kids who have access to it, a quick glance into the local Lego store reveals that the vast majority of their product is littered with tie-ins to movies and TV shows.

Is this literally an unartistic concept? In most cases I’d be the one yelling about how any idea can hatch a great movie — or at least a good one. With this trailer, though, I can’t help feeling like I’m watching a very well-produced 3-minute commercial for a very well-produced 90-minute commercial. That has little mini-commercials scattered throughout it. This isn’t a sponsored post, by the way.

Is this just me? Do I need to shut up and accept that advertising is the modern art form? Does having a good sense of humor do enough to offset basing a movie on a toy line? Is it unreasonable to look at a movie that is literally titled after a toy and accuse it of being a sellout? Let me know in the comments.



*Both of these, incidentally, were about actual people instead of pieces of plastic.



  1. Mark Serio November 12, 2013
  2. Nick Ramsay November 12, 2013
  3. Kevin Gradin November 12, 2013

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