CRITIC’S CORNER COLUMNIST
Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
While I haven’t seen the most recent installment “The Second Part,” my hopes are high due to the amazing precedents set by “The Lego Movie” and “The Lego Batman Movie.” These films are what every child’s movie should strive for — and the rest of the entertainment industry could learn a thing or two as well.
The reason for holding them in such high esteem? They have everything that makes great literature: a creatively vivid world, an enticing plot, good social commentary and quality life lessons. Literature reveals the human condition, and these little plastic brick people get it right. The characters in the Lego movies emphasize over and over a theme relatable for kids of all ages: the world is better when we build each other up (pun completely intended).
In the original Lego movie, the protagonist Emmet is a simple everyman character, happily going about his life where “everything is awesome.” Despite his overly friendly attitude, he doesn’t have any friends and there doesn’t seem to be anything special about his life. That is, until he becomes The Special (the prophesied hero) and goes on a whirlwind adventure to save his world from destruction.
Along the way, he accumulates a group of wildly unique friends and learns that, in a world so bent on conformity (to the point of literally gluing people in place), what makes you unique gives you a great power to change the world for the better.
As if this message wasn’t good enough, the film takes it a step further: each person has something so special and unrepeatable about them that the world would lose something if that person were not to exist anymore. We absolutely have to recognize that value in everyone around us and choose to build each other up. (Theology of the Body, anyone?)
Emmet doesn’t seem special from the outside, and despite what a great idea his double-decker couch is, the people around him spend a lot of time tearing him down and telling him he’s not good enough to actually save the day. But he becomes a hero precisely because he’s able to recognize his uniqueness and encourage others in theirs, too.
Emmet couldn’t have saved the day without his friends, and they would never have saved the day without him. This is a crazy beautiful message: we need each other — friends, family, mentors, companions — to be the best that we can be, and when we celebrate what makes us special, the world truly becomes a better place.
Hopefully you can agree that this is a fantastic message to play so strongly in a children’s movie, but I want to show you how these themes don’t have to stay abstract.
I first saw “The Lego Movie” with my family when it came out in 2014. My youngest brother Joe invited some friends from school to see it with him, and this was huge for us. Joe has Down syndrome, and this was the first time he had ever really had friends over. The rest of my family was all a little nervous about how it would go — would these boys like Joe, would they be superficially nice, or would they reject him?
In a world that can sometimes focus a little too much on doing things the normal way, Joe doesn’t always fit in. But these new friends were so genuine; they played and laughed with him like any boys would after seeing such a hilarious movie.
They could have easily been fake or superficial, like the people around Emmet who don’t extend friendship to him, but they weren’t. They didn’t shy away from what’s different about Joe; they let him be himself and enjoyed what made each of them unique. They probably weren’t reading into the movie as much as I am here, but they were really living out the message — and they’re still friends in high school all these years later.
“The Lego Movie” shows us that when we choose to build each other up instead of avoiding each other or tearing each other down, we can literally save the day for the world around us. I can only hope that more filmmakers will take note from this brilliant movie and that the second one lives up to its predecessor.
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