JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

Everything is awesome: Legos are building a big buzz

Updated: 2014-02-10T23:02:28Z

By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

The Kansas City Star

I headed straight for the toy aisle. Mission: Lego.

But I was late to the party. Kids and parents were already there, scanning the shelves for kits from “The Lego Movie.” Even the journals and pens were almost sold out. I couldn’t fit my cart down the aisle. But the crowd didn’t irritate me. Instead, I smiled.

By now, you’ve heard about “The Lego Movie,” a building block box office buster to the tune of nearly $70 million. For February debuts it’s second only to Jesus — only “The Passion of the Christ” surpasses it. Believe the rave reviews. This film is fantastic.

The bricks may be plastic, but the movie is not. It’s witty and unexpected, building the laughs brick by brick. Despite product placement galore, there is something refreshingly genuine about this movie and its message about believing in yourself and nurturing your creativity. I dare you to resist the urge to build something after seeing it.

I couldn’t. I scoured both Target and Toys R Us on Sunday, but every Minifig was sold out.

How could this be? I wanted Wyldstyle, the movie’s brilliant and bold Matrix-like heroine who helps mild-mannered Emmet find himself. I needed Unikitty. She is my spirit animal. The half-unicorn, half-kitten is from Cloud Cuckoo Land, where it’s all about rainbows, puppies and butterflies. But you don’t want to get on the wrong side of this princess of a Master Builder.

Still, she finds the good in everything. So I could do the same. With so many kids glued to tablets and video games, the kind of play that Lego encourages has gotten overlooked. Now the movie’s success is putting creativity at the forefront of the toy aisle.

“The film combines the best characteristics of play and is fun for everyone,” Stevanne Auerbach, aka Dr. Toy, told me Monday. She’s the author of “Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child With a High PQ (play quotient).” “The bricks and building help everyone learn, gain valued skills, personal achievement and expand creativity.”

Lego’s massive movie is creating a surge, but the movement to push constructive play isn’t only about that brand. GoldieBlox, for example, an indie brand dedicated to building kits for little girls, became the first small business to air an ad during the Super Bowl.

On Saturday, the National Association of Women in Construction in Kansas City had the highest participation in years —120 elementary students — for its 25th annual Block Kids program, says Brooke Schnurr, the group’s president. Each child gets 100 building blocks, a piece of string, a piece of foil, a piece of construction paper and 45 minutes to create.

“I think society as a whole is really grasping the need to push engineering, math and science,” she says. The group plans to seize the movie’s momentum.

“Who doesn’t love Lego?” she says. “There’s that need in everyone to want to create, to let loose, have fun and let their creativity flow. I have three kids, and we play with Legos once or twice a week. You can spark that curiosity and interest at a young age.”

Adults are in on it, too. The KC Brick Lab, an adult Lego fan club, celebrated by building movie scenes at its monthly meeting Sunday. (Find them on Facebook.)

And Legoland Discovery Center at Crown Center hosts its monthly “No Kids Allowed” night next Monday. The theme is Winter Olympics, but there will be a movie tie-in the coming months.

“Adults have been waiting a long time for a Lego movie to happen,” says KC Legoland spokeswoman Elizabeth Mathews. “That nostalgia is exciting. Parents are bringing their kids, but adults are also going by themselves in the evening. It’s great for everyone.”

Young or old, the movie inspires more than laughter. It motivates you to do something fun, without a screen. It encourages us to build together.

Like Emmet so happily sings, “Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”

Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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