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Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Just a mini-rant. I promise.*

Let me state up front that I like LEGOs. I'm in favor of LEGOs. When my daughter was three years old, an astute grandma gave her a big set of LEGO blocks. They didn't have a theme or a movie tie-in; they were just random blocks with a couple of random LEGO people thrown in. They also came in a cool box with a sliding lid that doubled as a LEGO platform, with the little raised circles that LEGOs can bond to.

Genius. My kid played with that toy from age three till about age 13. No joke. Because there was no theme, no model to build, she used her imagination to create whatever she wanted. At age three, she made kitties (kind of weird-looking ones, to be honest). At 13, she was making whole scenes of stories from inside her head.

Later, we did get a couple of the Harry Potter-themed LEGO sets because she was wild about Harry and LEGOs, too. Those didn't have the long-term play value of the original set, but that was okay. I still approve of the idea.

What I don't get is how LEGO Harry Potter figures came to star in their own games. We have the original HP computer games. They're fun. The characters in the games look like Harry and Ron and Hermione. You can be Harry and learn spells and follow the stories. The wizards have more than two expressions on their faces. Fun.

And with the building sets, you can play with LEGO Harry and make your own scenes and stories. Fun.

But how does LEGO Harry branch off into his own animated world? And why does anyone care? I don't want to play a game in which Harry is reduced to a plastic block. And here's why this all came up: I don't get the LEGO movie, better known as The LEGO Movie. (Really? That's the title? Why yes, yes it is.) I love cool animation, whether traditional or computerized; I don't mind hearing Morgan Freeman's voice emerge from an animated figure. But an animated figure that's a representation of a toy figure ... I guess that's too far for my feeble brain to go. It's a layer of metareality I don't really understand, and frankly, I don't like it, either. We already dictate to kids how to play with their toys by making them more and more representational, and thus restrictive. A refrigerator box can be a rocket ship, a race car, a TARDIS, a clubhouse. But a race car is a race car. A LEGO Harry Potter is a LEGO Harry Potter. You can call him something else, but in your heart, you know what he is.

That said, I longed for representational toys when I was a kid. I wanted the "real" playhouse. My TV-fed brain would have eagerly lapped up toy versions of my favorite movie characters. But my imagination was better fed by the generic. And I'm glad now that it was.

And don't even get me started on the novelization of the film of the toys that don't represent anything real. And yeah, it's on the New York Times Best Seller List.


*Yeah, I know. Promise broken. Sorry.


  1. I concur! It looks like pure torture to me, even though many parents I know report it is actually quite good. I don't think I could stomach it!

    1. It's gotten at least one good review (NY Times). I haven't checked it out on Rotten Tomatoes or anything. The story might be good, for all I know. It's just the concept I find weird (and blatantly commercial, too).