Written by Robert P. Murphy
I held off on writing this review to avoid giving (mild) spoilers to the parents who were taking their kids anyway. But now that the initial rush is over, I want to tell fans of liberty that the box office smash LEGO movie was absolutely amazing in every respect. I took my young son, just hoping for some wholesome entertainment, and at one point my jaw literally dropped because I couldn’t believe what a great message it contained. Let me take this blog post to explain why everybody–even those without children–should watch this movie.
First of all, the movie is simply hilarious. It literally has a laugh-out-loud gag or line every few minutes. But–unlike some comedies–it isn’t merely a collection of one-liners. It actually has a very deep message to which it gradually builds, with the plotlines converging at the end.
Now there are actually two messages underlying the film, one political, and the other personal. The latter involves a surprise twist (please no spoilers in the comments), so let’s put that aside and focus on the political message.
The political message of the LEGO movie is this: The United States is turning to fascism, but average citizens don’t even realize it because they’re distracted by our mindless pop culture. This alarming trend can only be reversed if everyone recognizes his or her heroic potential and rises up in the struggle for liberty.
Once crystallized in the above fashion, I think everyone who has seen the LEGO movie will recognize that I’m right. After all, the movie isn’t subtle. It opens with the protagonist–a construction worker named Emmet–who literally reads from an instruction manual on how to be happy and a good member of society. In the (hilarious) opening sequence, Emmet starts his day by getting dressed and then watching the President on TV explain his ominous intentions. But just as Emmet is contemplating this draconian announcement, he is distracted by a goofy TV show called, “Where Are My Pants?” (in which the befuddled star repeatedly walks around without his pants on, to the delight of the studio audience).
Emmet then heads to work, and in the car he plays the hit song, “Everything Is Awesome.” Now let me say something about this song. It’s very catchy, and some libertarian critics of the movie thought the song had a collectivist message (and hence couldn’t see why some of us were skipping out of the theaters singing it).
Yes, of course the song is collectivist; that’s the point. The song is part of the pop culture that distracts the citizens from the unfolding fascism. When the song is introduced in the movie, Emmet is in the midst of going through his checklist of how to fit in, including always signaling a lane change when driving, always rooting for the home sports team, and buying overpriced coffee from Starbucks. Clearly all of these other elements are satirizing society, right? So why would the viewer think that the hit song on the radio–which the female lead Wildstyle despises, and can’t believe Emmet likes it–is something that the creators of the LEGO movie are endorsing?
Let me tackle the other stumbling block for free-market libertarians: The name of the villain is “President Business.” Thus, some viewers complained to me that the movie had an anti-market message.
OK, first of all, it was a movie celebrating LEGO. Do you really think it is programming kids to avoid commerce? Second of all, one of the heroes is Batman. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Batman’s secret identity–let’s just refer to him as “Bruce W.” to protect his anonymity–is not a hipster who runs a soup kitchen. So the movie isn’t really announcing, “All successful businessmen are evil.”
Remember, the underlying theme of the LEGO movie is that America is turning fascist. Now what is fascism? It is the unholy alliance of Big Government and Big Business. So if you are making a kids’ movie and want to drive home the point, what do you do? You make your villain simultaneously the head of the democratic government and the head of a major corporation that provides security cameras, controls the media, and even publishes the history books (yes they explicitly say all that in the LEGO movie).
Remember, the villain is President Business; don’t focus on just the second half of his title. His chief enforcer isn’t a private mercenary, but instead is the head of the police (voiced by Liam Neeson), with the name “Bad Cop.” His robotic enforcers are called “Micro Managers.” If you watched this movie and came away sulking that it was bashing markets, then congratulations you have the same sophistication as the analysts on FOX news who are fans of Mitt Romney.
Thus far, I’ve just explained why the LEGO movie has a great message for those who oppose the fascist United States government. But it went much deeper–and this is the part that made my jaw drop. The extremely creative, individualist freedom fighters in the movie eventually have a revelation: Their efforts to stymie President Business haven’t been working, because they aren’t acting together as a team. They need to join forces by following a common plan, even though–by their very nature–this isn’t something that comes naturally to them. Later on, there is yet another revelation, when Wildstyle realizes that only by enlisting the common people can the leaders of the resistance have any hope of success. She apologizes to the masses (when the rebels take over the TV studio), saying she used to dismiss them all as “followers” but now realizes everyone can be a creative innovator.
I don’t want to give away any more of the details. Nothing will replicate having seen it in the theater with a hundred delighted kids, but if you still haven’t seen the LEGO movie, I highly recommend it. Everything about it is AWESOME. Robert P. Murphy is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, and has written for Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, and EconLib. He has taught at Hillsdale College and is currently a Senior Economist for the Institute for Energy Research. He lives in Nashville.
Robert P. Murphy is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, and has written for Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, and EconLib. He has taught at Hillsdale College and is currently a Senior Economist for the Institute for Energy Research. He lives in Nashville.