TFF2014: Beyond the Brick

            Few toys could sustain a feature length documentary.  But few toys have the enduring appeal and versatility of Legos, which were created way back in 1949 (one of many fascinating facts shared here is that Legos made back then are compatible with modern bricks).  This entertaining, engaging film recounts the origin story, as well as the brand’s evolution from popular toy to fading also-ran (the company nearly went belly-up in the 90s) to worldwide empire.  But the real focus here is on the people who buy, play with, and find endless uses for Legos. 

            These include the “AFOL”s, or Adult Fans of Legos, from the mom who’s won the Master Builder contest three years in a row to the super fan who realized his dreams by going to work for the company.  There’s also NY-based artist Nathan Sawaya, who’s fought for his Lego work to be recognized as “legitimate,” a “Brick Film”maker whose mom can’t wait for him to finish his action epic so she can have her garage back, and a therapist researching the use of Legos to socialize autistic kids.  In short, Lego is more than just a toy; in the hands of people around the world, it’s become a means to all sorts of creative ends. 

            Directors Daniel Junge and Davis Coombe take us through dozens of these stories and permutations, and pack their film with entertainment value.  (A  real-life Lego house?  A working Lego car?  Cool!)  They have a keen visual sense and portray their subjects with personality and humor.  The movie’s over-long, and the Jason Bateman-voiced Mini Figure narrator gets annoying after a while.  But any Lego aficionado can’t miss this one, and there’s plenty for general audiences to enjoy as well.  It’s a celebration of obsessive fandom and creativity; what more could a geek want?

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("Lego mom" Alice Finch with her award winning model of Lord of the Rings' Rivendell)

on April 29, 2014