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film review

Today, Lego prides itself as a producer of tools as much as toys – literally building blocks for ideas in art, architecture and more.

If there's something rotten in the state of Denmark, we wouldn't know it by A Lego Brickumentary. The film is squeaky-clean triumphalism at its most blatant, brand-building best. Documentary? Please. This glorified infomercial from directors Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge is indoctrination. "There are 100 Lego pieces for every person on the planet," a narrator brags early. "A half a billion people grew up with Lego bricks." The math is overwhelming, and so is this film – a brick-by-brick assembly of testimonial glee from nerd-faced believers and smiling corporate bro-ism from the privately held Lego Group mother ship in Billund, Denmark.

You want numbers? How about the millions of times a bleary-eyed, barefooted parent stepped on a stray Lego brick in the middle of the night? The pain is so agonizing – plantar excruciatis, if I remember my fake Latin correctly – as to have mothers and fathers cursing their choice to reproduce.

But, in A Lego Brickumentary, we don't hear about that. Instead we hear a cheery, quirky, fumbling narrator – an animated Lego minifigure, voiced by the reclusive Jason Bateman; good to see that guy finally get some work – guiding the viewer through a toy-world subculture and the company's rise and rise.

The chipper tale is admittedly interesting, though not "fascinating," as self-advertised. Superlatives are thrown around as if hallelujahs at a church, and zealotry is indeed the feel. One breathless Lego designer talks about his "amazing" job. "I don't want to oversell it," he says. But he's much too late – the hype is on. Of course, it's been on. The monster toy brand of tiny, plastic, interlocking bricks, theme sets, accessories and nose-less, cup-handed Lego people was just the foundation for a company that began as a woodworking shop in the early 1900s. The franchise today includes the shining, cinematic centrepiece The Lego Movie, last year's computer-generated action-comedy,featuring the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Nick Offerman, Liam Neeson and others. The film's theme song was Everything is Awesome, and, one supposes, for the Lego empire, that is true enough. The Lego Movie which was a commercial success and a success as a commercial.

The goals of A Lego Brickumentary are less gaudy. Attempting to shelve the notion that the plastic product isn't only for kids and basement-dwelling AFOLs (adult fans of Lego, in the fan-boy acronym vernacular), pro-Lego testimonials come from such luminaries as South Park co-creator Trey Parker, ginger-haired British pop star Ed Sheeran and basketball's Dwight Howard, the behemoth who can toss foul-shot bricks with the best of them).

Though some of the action happens at Lego conventions, more interesting are the marketing lessons. Lego officials describe an "arrogant" company that almost went out of business in the early 2000s before it began listening to and trusting its customers. Today, Lego prides itself as a producer of tools as much as toys – literally building blocks for ideas in art, architecture and more.

Which is legitimate enough. It's a bit shameless, however, that the film devotes one of its storylines to an autistic boy. Nothing seems to bring the kid out of his anti-social shell quite like snap-together plastic. Lego cures autism, and mustn't the fools over at Lincoln Logs now wonder where it all went wrong for them.