3 Valuable Life Lessons from The LEGO Movie


3 Valuable Life Lessons from The LEGO MovieAs of when I’m writing this, I have seen The LEGO Movie approximately 837 times. That’s not my five-year-old’s fault, either. My husband and I have been superfans of this movie since we saw it in theaters in 2014. What’s not to like? Stunning animation, sharp and witty writing, great casting, and just the right blend of tongue-in-cheek and heartwarming.

The LEGO Movie ranks high on my list of favorite movies. It’s pretty near perfect.

Being fans ourselves, we waited patiently for the day our kiddo would be old enough to enjoy it, too. And at last, that day came when he was around three(ish). He’s been a fan ever since, at first delighting in the bright colors and now appreciating it for the story itself.

Recently, my parents finally got around to watching The LEGO Movie for the first time — and they hated it. My mom won’t use that phrase, but I know she did. My dad had zero hopes going into the experience, and I think his worst fears were confirmed: a garish, nonsensical cartoon with no entertainment value. My mom even characterized the film as “violent.” (Insert “mind blown” emoji here.)

Partly in response to this gross mischaracterization of one of cinema’s finest productions and partly because this movie literally never gets old to me, I set about to defend its honor here. Unlike too many things made for kids, The LEGO Movie offers some solid messaging packed into a colorful candy shell.

Here are three valuable life lessons from The LEGO Movie.

#1. Everything is awesome.

Emmet Brikowski, central character and everyman, cruises through his day-to-day blissfully unaware that life is anything but awesome. He’s got an optimism that defies logic, living in an actual dystopian hellscape where the person in charge owns everything from local coffee shops to voting machines.

As an adult, it’s tempting to hone in on what Emmet misses, that his play-by-the-rules approach to life has rendered him completely unable to think for himself. But Emmet’s mind, Vitruvius tells us, is “so prodigiously empty” that he’s able to see The Man Upstairs clearly, unlike all of the enlightened Master Builders, who can’t get out of their own way to build something as simple as a boat together.

It’s Emmet’s optimism that ultimately saves everyone. His ability to see the good in situations and other people allows him to overcome Lord Business in the end. Everything might not be awesome in real life. There are lots of ways life is not awesome all the time. But finding a way to see through those less-than-awesome times is a good life skill.

#2. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.

One of my favorite messages in The LEGO Movie is that it’s equally important to be who you are and work together with other people. It’s not enough to be a loner creative type who spurns the rules on principle. But it’s also not acceptable to follow those rules without questioning them and try to fit yourself into someone else’s standards.

These are both critical messages for kids (and adults). Emmet’s speech to the Master Builders after they’ve failed to save themselves from an attack:

Guys, you’re all so talented and imaginative, but you can’t work together as a team. I’m just a construction worker, but when I had a plan and we were working together, we could build a skyscraper. Now you’re Master Builders, just imagine what could happen if you did that. You could save the universe.

We’re better when we work together, when we’re part of a team. That goes for the whole of the human race as well as smaller, more manageable teams: families, friends, coworkers, schoolmates, neighbors.

It’s more than an everybody-hold-hands message, though. It’s a practical message that tells kids not only should you be exactly who you are, but you should use who you are to make things better. You’re special. I’m special. Our unique skills combined can make a difference. The sum is greater than the parts.

#3. Everything is awesome when you’re living out a dream.

There’s some debate between me, my husband, and the internet about the actual line in the song here — “living the dream,” “living a dream” — but you get the gist. At the end of the movie (SPOILER), we learn that the whole LEGO world has been created by an 8 ½-year-old boy named Finn, who’s been playing in the basement using his dad’s incredible LEGO setup.

The dad’s not happy about this. There are signs everywhere. Don’t touch. Finn has combined all the by-the-rules sets in new ways, and the dad finds it maddening. All he wants is total perfection.

But as he looks around the room and sees what his son’s done with the place, he softens. He holds up the bizarre configurations, impressed in spite of himself. And he looks over at Finn, who explains that Lord Business doesn’t have to be the bad guy.

That right there, kids, is the most powerful lesson in the whole movie: our roles in this life are not immutable.

Maybe you start out as the tie-wearing authoritarian, but you take another look at the creativity around you and realize that you want to be a part of that world. Vitruvius reveals to Emmet that he made up the Prophecy of the Special:

Because the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be. I know that sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true. Look at what you did when you believed you were special. You just need to believe it some more.

Living the dream is living your own dream, whatever that looks like for your life — provided you’ve learned and applied the other lessons. You can’t live the dream without any optimism (or hope), and you can’t live out your dream if you don’t know who you are and can’t work with anyone else to make that dream a reality.

The LEGO Movie offers three critical lessons for audiences of all ages: hope, teamwork, and self-actualization.