Filmmakers respond to criticism of Lego 'Brickumentary'

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — The filmmakers behind a documentary on the toy powerhouse Lego say critics who see the film as a 92-minute commercial for the tiny building blocks are missing the point.

"A Lego Brickumentary" opened Friday in limited theatrical release to mixed reviews, with some reviewers complaining the film took an uncritical eye to the toy that captivates children and adults alike.

"If there is anyone out there that's looking for a hardcore controversial film they are looking at this film through the wrong lens," Kief Davidson, the film's co-director, said in an interview Friday.

His co-director, Daniel Junge, said the film was guided by a genuine affection for the bricks, not any input from the Dutch toymaker.

"Lego had no editorial control over the film," Junge said. "The love that you see in the film is coming from us as filmmakers."

Their zeal for Lego bricks led some critics to liken the film to a corporate ad or promotional video. "As a movie, it can be as annoying as stepping on a stray LEGO brick with your socks off," New York Daily News reviewer Jordan Hoffman wrote in one of the more unflattering reviews.

It clicked better with moviegoers; audiences gave it a 71 score on review site Rotten Tomatoes on Friday night.

"A Lego Brickumentary" explores the culture surrounding Legos, which are no longer confined to tables and toy boxes, but include books, video games and a successful feature film. The documentary shows how builders create jets, replica movie sets and functional cars from a product initially created for children.

"I don't think anyone would have seen the omnipresence of Legos we see now," said Junge, who won an Academy Award in 2011 for the short documentary, "Saving Face."

The film includes recording artist Ed Sheeran, basketball player Dwight Howard and South Park creator Trey Parker describing their love for the toy. Jason Bateman narrates the feature length documentary as an animated Lego mini-figure.

The majority of the film, however, explores the bricks' huge adult fan base, known as "Adult Fans of Lego," or AFOLs. Junge was approached to create the film about Brickworld, an annual convention of Lego enthusiasts who show off elaborate creations and learn new building techniques.

"We were continuously just lured by the level of quality in the builds and the massive artistic endeavors at the conventions," Davidson said.

That prompted the filmmakers to explore the use of Legos for real-life uses such as therapy and architecture, and its role as a gender-neutral toy.

"Brickumentary" provided Junge and Davidson the chance to create a movie they can share with their children. Junge's upcoming film "Being Evel" focuses on daredevil Evel Knievel and Davidson is working on a documentary about the ivory crisis.

Junge said this is the first time his 7-year-old daughters will see his work and the film gave Davidson an opportunity to bond with his son.

"It drew us closer together as father-son and that's something 10 years from now I'll definitely remember," Davidson said.