I took my entire family to see “The Lego Movie” on opening day last weekend. We left the theater quoting Batman, laughing about Emmet’s empty-headedness and singing the annoyingly catchy “Everything is Awesome.”
And I’m fairly certain we emerged un-indoctrinated by the film’s supposed anti-capitalist message.
I wouldn’t have given much consideration to that last condition had I completely avoided media consumption. But it was difficult to miss mentions of a Fox Business discussion questioning whether Hollywood was "pushing its anti-business message to our kids," as host Charles Payne put it.
I guess I just missed that. In fact, the day after seeing the film, I couldn’t resist running out and buying a $50 "Lego Movie" set so that my kids and I could spend a few hours building, reminiscing and playing with the Emmet minifigure.
For an anti-business production, “The Lego Movie” sure does an effective job of moving product.
Earlier this week, The Atlantic posted a look at the film’s “ideology,” calling it “shockingly subversive” and referencing the film’s “political subtext.”
I’ve enjoyed reading this and other analyses of the film. After all, “The Lego Movie” is awfully smart and ripe for critical analysis. Several reviews, including one written by Josh Terry for the Deseret News, recognize the film's depth. It's about much more than a line of toys.
But in straining to pull all this social and political meaning out of it, is some beautiful simplicity being overlooked?
Out of full disclosure, I missed the first few minutes of the film because I was carefully transporting two large tubs of popcorn and two large cups of root beer into the theater. (Full, occupied mouths make less noise in a packed auditorium.) I had a wiggly 4-year-old right by me. And just before the credits, my baby girl decided she was finished with the movie and had to be taken for a stroll in the aisle.
So maybe I missed something that more sophisticated and unoccupied viewers caught.
The themes I did recognize were about creativity, human differences and family relationships. The plot had me considering varying personality types — those who follow directions and those who would rather freelance. I didn’t see either depicted as “bad” — just different.
I reflected on the relevance to my own family. We’ve purchased a lot of Lego sets over the years — from the Star Wars AT-AT to Hagrid’s hut to a flying dragon from Ninjago — and I’ve always wanted to build according to the directions and keep them pieced together. My kids, however, soon bust them down and add them to drawers of scattered pieces that they can use to build whatever they like.
It’s aggravating, but I’ve learned to live with it and even appreciate it. They’ve done some pretty cool stuff over the years. I even spent a year blogging about the random creations my kids made — all while resisting the desire to put everything back the way it was supposed to be.
Recently, I drove my oldest son to school because he was afraid his valentine box might break. It was made completely out of Legos.
Maybe I’m just a simpleton, but I didn’t apply politics to “The Lego Movie.”
Yes, perceived Hollywood agendas can be annoying. I tend to resent it when my entertainment is peppered with political messages. But do we also tend to overreact when we feel like we’re being preached to? I know I do.
Let me float out some crazy notions. Perhaps “The Lego Movie” simply celebrates creativity. Perhaps the fact that its villain is a businessman is simply a character convention and not a shot at capitalism. Perhaps there’s nothing about its messages that conservatives and liberals can’t both appreciate — creativity, considering another’s viewpoint and marveling at the imagination of a child.
Or maybe I was indoctrinated by the movie. Maybe I’m just drinking all that Kool-Aid that Lego is serving up.
Or maybe I just choose to think of the movie as simply “awesome.”
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @aaronshill
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company