Reflections on The LEGO Movie

the_lego_movie_2014-wideMovies that tell kids they are special are hardly unique. Kids are told that they are special from nearly every corner of their universe these days. But this isn’t exactly what The LEGO Movie says to its audience. Rather what makes The LEGO Movie unique and fun is that it reminds us we are all “special” precisely because we’re not.

Emmet, the movie’s main character, is most assuredly not special. He is a walking clone. He has a plain face, plain personality, and appears like you would expect an old school LEGO man to look. He is the sort of LEGO that doesn’t have any distinguishing features or talents. Even his co-workers have more unique attributes about them. Emmet is “nothing.”

His world, too, is rather boring. From sun up to sun down the people of Bricksburg blow up “weird stuff” and build “normal stuff,” following the directions perfectly. They file in and out of line perfectly and robotically. They are seemingly so inundated with “normal” that they don’t realize President Business has been taking over their world and plans to bring life in it to an end. But when Emmet stumbles upon an important secret device that will save the world everything changes. He suddenly becomes “special.”

But maybe “special” means something different in his case. Even after finding the mysterious “Piece of Resistance,” Emmet doesn’t really seem any more special than he was before. His best idea is a double-decker couch. In the company of a whole team of “Master Builders” Emmet is still a “nothing.” That’s part of what makes this movie so endearing. The Master Builders turn out not to be the most helpful. Batman is rather incompetent throughout the film and his companions all end up  getting captured. It’s up to Emmet and the other everyday citizens of Bricksburg to save the day, to be the real resistance.

There is a beautiful lesson here about not leaving everything to the so-called professionals. There is creative power within even the everyday person, the “normal” person. The professionals have great creative potential, no doubt, but they can’t solve every problem that exists. In a world where the degrees you have, the doctorate you earned, the specialization you trained for means everything the person with no degrees, or fewer letters after his name gets dismissed. If you’re not a “Master Builder” then it’s nice of you to offer your help, offer your voice, offer your art, but you can’t really contribute. That’s a message that The LEGO Movie aims at and dismantles with side-splitting hilarity, and self-aware humor. It’s Emmet, the non-special, who turns out to be the answer. It’s his creativity, often weird creativity, that saves the day.

And LEGOs are a good medium in which to communicate the point. After all LEGOs allow average everyday citizens to explore their creativity, in all its “weird” forms and less than perfect constructions. I remember well growing up and finding boxes full of LEGO pieces with no more instructions and coming up with the weirdest creations I could. They weren’t as pretty as the ones on the boxes, but they were special to me because I had built them. They were functional, to a degree. Bust most of all they were fun. The movie itself is a testimony to thinking outside the box, a testimony to the weird, creative, fun you can have when you don’t follow the expected rules. I mean, whoever thought a movie about LEGOs was going to be a good idea? But it is, and not just because they have an all-star voice cast to assist in its promotion. It really is a genuinely fun, creative idea.

We live in a hyper-professionalized world. I observe it within the circles in which I run. Do you have an article that you’d love to get published? Good luck if you don’t have a degree in journalism. It’s not that it’s impossible to get published, but there are many outlets who have no interest in even hearing from you if you don’t have the proper credentials. It’s just as bad in the Christian community. The church today has taken the pastorate from the realm of servant leader to that of business CEO. If you don’t have a Masters many churches won’t even look at you. We have a tendency to professionalize everything, and in the process of accepting only “Master Builders” we are ignoring the amazing potential and creativity of the less “professional” people. The LEGO Movie takes a common movie cliché and turns it on its head. We are all “special” it says, precisely because some of us are not. We are special because we are “ordinary.” That’s a message I’d love to communicate more and more to my kids. It’s a message I need to remind myself of. You don’t have to be the best at something to enjoy it. It’s okay to be just okay at some things. It’s okay to not be “special.”

Comments

  1. Phyllis & Bill Dengler says:

    We are all special – especially to God, who sent His only Son to die for the sins of us ordinary people! Good review, Dave. (I posted your review on FB!)

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