We are a movie watching family. I grew up watching movies. Before kids, Bruce and I would watch at least one, sometimes two, movies every weekend.
(I'm guessing we are not alone, given the ginormous movie-making industry.)
Yet as parents of young kids, we struggle deciding what movies to watch with our kiddos. Its tricky to find the perfect combination of: quality entertainment, wholesome, and thought-provoking. Nothing like getting to the end of a movie and feeling dumber than before it began.
My parents carefully selected what movies they allowed me to watch ("Smurfs" was definitely off the list). And for the movies we did see, thoughtful discussions always followed. I learned how to watch a movie, keep my brain engaged and find truth from even (gasp) secular media.
So it's my hope this little guide will help start conversations with your little people about the newest blockbuster, "The LEGO Movie".
Let's answer your first question of whether or not you should see "The LEGO Movie". Of course, ultimately that decision is yours, but maybe I can help.
We ended up taking all 4 of our boys (ages 2,4,6, & 8) to see the 2D version (they aren't big fans of 3D movies).
As expected, my 2 year old lost interest quickly. We fortunately choose a theater that served dinner. So the french fries bought us extra time. Ultimately, he was more interested in screaming loudly and asking to walk up and down the stairs, than watch moving LEGOs on the big screen (can't really blame him).
The other three boys' eyes were glued to the screen. I don't know if they understood all the subtle humor, but they enjoyed seeing their beloved toys moving around and telling a story. And they laughed a lot!
As far as the "family friendly factor", according to the IMDB parents' guide (which you can find here), there are a lot of "violent" scenes. But keep in my mind the violence happens using LEGOs so I didn't feel they were gruesome or concerning.
Haven't we all seen our children play with LEGOs that way? Blowing up buildings with a pretend cannon, kicking over another minifigure, popping a head off. Like one commenter pointed out, it's like when you eat a gummi bear and you bite of his head first. Not really considered "violent"...
Another issue to consider is all the name calling in this movie. Really, don't movie makers consult parents on these things? Can you just stop putting "stupid" & "loser" in the dialogue? Please? (okay getting off soap box).
What to discuss...
Once you've seen the film, here are some questions to discuss afterward, maybe over fro-yo? Or on the drive home? Or even over the course of the next week...since my boys STILL talk about this movie.
1. What did they like about the movie? Favorite character? Favorite scene?
I'm always curious to hear the first impressions my boys have after a movie. Tells me a lot about what parts of the story they understood. Also, gives me a peak into each of their unique personalities and interests.
2. What parts didn't they like?
Amazes me how scenes from a movie I may consider scary are not the ones my boys pick. For instance, they did not like how the bad cop/good cop had his face rubbed off (high on the empathy scale, I guess). I thought Lord Business would have scared them more.
3. What did Lord Business want most? What did he do to get what he wanted? How did he treat others?
Looking at character's motivations is a great way to contrast the good vs. evil in a movie. Sometimes the "bad guy" is hard to find (not true in this movie...). By looking at desires, actions and relationships, it becomes clearer whether he's working on the "good team". Also, you could discuss how someone could have a good desire but go after it in a wrong way.
4. Are all big businesses and CEOs bad?
I found an article saying that Fox Business wasn't a fan of the movie portraying big business as evil. May be good to discuss your personal family views are on this topic. And perhaps how all businesses had to start somewhere, and how could you support a local business...
5. How did Emmet feel about being "the special"? Do you think he was special? What made him stand out from the other LEGO minifigures?
One of the primary themes of this movie is how an "ordinary" minifigure, Emmet, gets labeled as the chosen one who will save the universe. Then we learn the prophet, Vitruvirus, just made the whole prophecy up. However, at the end of the movie Emmet proves himself as the hero. We learn each character serves a unique purpose in their mission (even 80's space man..."space ship, space ship!").
6. What unique skills and talents do you have? What is our family's ultimate purpose? How can we use those skills to reach that purpose?
This is the creme-de-la-creme of the conversation. Ultimately, we see master builders using innate abilities to create without a plan. We watch Emmet being bold and thinking "outside the box" to solve their "Kragel" problem. Perhaps you can Cast a vision, not only your kids, but your family as a whole. How can you all work together, using your unique skills, for one common purpose? Because as we all heard (and it repeats in our head, obnoxiously)
"Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you're part of a team. Everything is awesome, when you're living out a dream."
7. Spiritual conversations you could have...
- What is a prophet? Who are prophets mentioned in the Bible? What is there purpose? Did they "make up" prophecies?
- The LEGO minifigures referred to the hand of God or an ultimate being. Who did the hand belong to, actually? Do we believe God is distant and just reaches down every once in awhile? Is He just playing around? What is God's purpose in putting us on earth?
(**Bonus discussion--You could also spend some time talking about the father & son at the end of the movie. Was the son wrong to be playing with his father's things without asking? Should the dad crazy glue the pieces together? Sometimes media portrays dads as idiots and the kids as the smart ones. Something to talk about with your kiddos.)
Similar movie to watch for family movie night..."The Incredibles".
**For more thoughts on engaging culture, I wrote this post on analyzing movies/plays/books using a metanarrative concept. Deciding where the main character came from, where is he headed, how will he get there and how does his journey fit in the overall story.
Have you seen the LEGO Movie? What questions would you add to the discussion guide?