A few months ago I took a short holiday with my two daughters on Dartmoor. True to (British) form, it drizzled – constantly. So I braced myself for battles about how much television the girls could watch, or how many games they could play on my phone. But then fate – or a brilliant piece of innovation – intervened. The hotel where we were staying, Bovey Castle, featured a “Lego room service” menu, next to the normal food menu, which allowed guests to borrow Lego sets. My daughters dialled for some kits.
Three days later, the room was full of models, including a highly complex “Lone Ranger silver mine”, that featured crankshafts, pulleys and fiddly little buckets. My daughters brimmed with pride. Best of all, they barely watched any Disney Channel or minded the rain.
Is there a bigger moral here? I would love to think so. Last weekend The Lego Movie opened in North America and parts of Europe, to rapturous reviews and packed cinemas, earning some $69m in the first weekend alone. Having seen the movie, however, I was not entirely dazzled. It is striking to see that much Lego on a screen – the film features no fewer than 3,863,484 Lego bricks. It is also heartening to see an eight-decade-old Danish company reinvent itself, after earlier bouts of decline, by finding new focus buying intellectual property (hence the appearance of Batman Lego, Star Wars Lego and so on). But compared with some of the other brilliantly witty kids’ films, the dialogue seems clunky. So does the predictably feel-good message (that kids need to be resilient, ambitious and let their creative spirits fly).