Yesterday afternoon we took a break from dissertation-related arts and crafts (really) to go see The LEGO movie with some Fair Play/grad school friends. If we’re being honest and accountable, it seemed like a nice break from work…that was still sort of like work. In any event, here it is, the one-line take on The LEGO movie, paraphrased and third hand through some other Fair Play friends: well it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, but it was pretty funny and the leading lady is the only one with any brains or competence.
The LEGO movie tells the story of Emmett, a completely ordinary construction worker who by sheer dumb happenstance ends up finding out about Lord/President Business’ plan to end the LEGO world by gluing everyone in place so that they stop changing his perfect world. Emmett and his friends, “master builders” who have been banished from the city because of their penchant for creativity, must reunite the Krazy Glue cap (“piece of resistance”) with the Krazy Glue tube (“kragle”) to save the city. In parallel is a struggle between a son and his father (“the man upstairs”) about using the LEGOs for creative building vs. obsessive order (and gluing the pieces in place).
Yes, this movie was very funny. I was laughing the whole time, as were my grownup friends and the little girl sitting next to me. Actually, I think this review could also be done punctuated by her own quotes (and so it will be).
First, let’s look at the Bechdel test:
- It has to have at least two women in it,
- who talk to each other,
- about something besides a man.
There are indeed two women in this movie: Lucy/Wyldstyle and Unikitty, a unicorn cat. They do talk to each other some while the team plans their assault on Lord/President Business’ evil skyscraper. Some of that is about a man – Emmett – but mostly whether he is really “the special,” the chosen hero a made-up prophecy speaks about, because he is just so stupid. They also fight over reconciling their building penchants when Emmett encourages them to “follow the instructions!” while building a submarine for escape. Unikitty, not surprisingly, prefers pink and pastel LEGOs. Lucy/Wyldstyle is more of a free spirit.
Ok, it’s a stretch. Bechdel fail.
But, in the wise words of my nearby seatmate, “Unikitty is AWESOME!!!!!!”
Unikitty is awesome, and here’s why: You expect that Unikitty is a moron, overcome by her desire for nice and pretty things in her homeland of Cloud Cuckoo Land. She struggles constantly throughout their quest to regulate her emotions and always smile (gender stereotypes!). But, she is at her butt-kicking best when she finally loses it. It’s a liberating moment for her, and she briefly takes center stage. She is also one of the “master builders,” so even with her stereotypical preference for pink, her main asset is her creative mind and intelligence.
Lucy/Wyldstyle is also pretty cool, and in the paraphrased words of that Fair Play friend, “the only one with any brains or competence.”
In an early high-speed chase (one of many), Lucy suggests that they can build their way out of anything. She builds them a motorcycle to escape, adapts that mid-chase to an airplane, and so on. She can build and think on her feet. Sadly, Lucy is obsessed with her boyfriend, Batman. Batman is an egotistical jerk.
Emmett, by comparison, is useless without instructions. He lives in a 1984-esque dystopia where everyone is the same. In fact, he is perfect for this weird town because he is “just so generic.”
As the movie progresses, Lucy becomes romantically interested in Emmett (who is still useless, by the way, he just happens upon the answers occasionally because as Lucy says, “his brain is completely empty” and there are no sentient thoughts cluttering it up). The movie ends with Batman sending Lucy to be with Emmett. As Batman says, “No, Lucy. He’s the hero you deserve.”
But just when all seemed lost, the film cuts to the human operators of this universe, Finn and his dad. They fight over Finn’s creative use of the LEGOs, disassembling the perfect empire his dad has built and intends to glue in place. But, on closer inspection, dad comes to appreciate Finn’s creativity and hard work. Dad decides Finn can play with his LEGOs henceforward. And, dad says “Now that you’re allowed down here, we’ll have to let your sister play too.” Cue the scary music and the Duplo aliens descending into the city…
So here’s what we like about this movie: two strong female characters (amongst a bunch of annoying, stupid, and egotistical dudes), a focus on the importance of creativity over following the instructions (which come with every LEGO set you buy now), and the dawning of a new era in a household where dad, son, and baby daughter dig their LEGOs. We don’t like the ending with Lucy as the lady prize, and we don’t especially like that Emmett is now the hero because let us not forget, he is a complete moron.
But, in the words of my enigmatic, tiny seatmate, “Mom, can we see it again? This time in 3D? 3D is just like 2D except it pops out!”
We give The LEGO Movie 3 pinwheels:
– for the attempt at some positive messaging around LEGO, construction, and gender. Ultimately it perpetuates some pervasive negative stereotypes, but is it the worst thing in theaters for children? No, not by a long shot. And, it’s enjoyable for kids and parents alike. If you want a gender fair movie theater experience, it’s slim pickings.
Getting Reel is a series in which we review movies and television. Sometimes we focus on box office hits like The LEGO Movie, and in other posts we highlight lesser-known gender fair gems. Want something in particular reviewed as part of this series or in general? Request a Review or leave a comment on our Facebook.