The “Lego Movie” made more than just $257 million at the box office: The wildly popular film increased sales of Lego toys by 11 percent during the first six months of 2014, according to the Danish toy maker, validating earlier criticism that the movie served a purpose other than entertaining families.
The Guardian’s Noah Kristula-Green pointed out how the film made no attempt to incorporate the toys into real world settings – a tactic that other toy based films like “Transformers,” “GI Joe” and “Battleship” did. “It knows its products are toys and proudly advertises its products as toys,” he wrote.
The animated film takes place in a Lego world where a citizen minifigure, Emmet, tries to take on a tyrant, Lord Business, who is trying to superglue all the Lego realms into place.
While younger audiences may be attracted to the toys from the plot, parents are sold by the film’s underlying message. Kristula-Green argues the “Lego Movie” made its pitch to parents perfectly in the final 20 minutes of the film. In a plot twist, the movie becomes live-action to show the story took place in the imagination of a little boy whose father (played by Will Ferrell) is a Lego aficionado with a collection his children are not allowed to touch.
Kristula-Green argues that the sequence is designed to answer a question many parents might have about buying the expensive toys: "Why should I part with my money in exchange for this plastic which is also a choking hazard and painful to step on?" The film replies: "Because your child will have fun and you can bond and avoid estrangement!"
(And since some Lego sets can have price tags that exceed $300, it’s understandable why some parents would need convincing.)
Other critics were more forgiving about the movie’s subliminal messages.
“It still might be a 100-minute commercial, but at least it's a highly entertaining and, most surprisingly, a thoughtful one with in-jokes that snap, crackle and zoom by at warp speed,” Susan Wloszczyna of RogerEbert.com wrote.
Steve Davis of the Austin Chronicle agrees. “The Lego Movie may be the shrewdest marketing ploy you’ve ever seen,” he wrote in his review. But he also called the film “smart and savvy,” adding that the ending highlights a real world problem “of rigid fathers and their imaginative sons,” Davis wrote. “It all fits together seamlessly, in a way you don’t see coming.”
Sales are expected to remain high during the second half of the year due to the June DVD release of the film, Lego said in a statement. In February, the privately owned Danish company became the world’s most profitable toymaker, beating such brands as Mattel’s Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price toys. The latest report has solidified that point.