EVERY YEAR AT THIS TIME ME and a variety of family members would make our pilgrimage to the wealthy suburb where all the fancy holiday decorations lived. We were a caravan of cars that traveled close to each other as we made our way along the city streets, always staying in the right lane. Nothing I saw compared to the decorations that were on display in this neighborhood. There was one house we drove by, where we would roll down our windows, because they had a full mechanical chorus singing on the front lawn. The house next door had life sized wooden soldiers that reminded me of the Laurel and Hardy movie, “March of the Wooden Soldiers.” The soldiers were lined up all along the walkway leading up to the house’s double front doors, besides protecting the edges of the front lawn. One of my favorite houses had a group of elf puppets dancing and twirling across the front porch while a waving Santa and his reindeer were parked on top of the roof. As a little kid it seemed as if we were riding up and down the neighborhood’s streets for hours because of so many decorated houses. Some houses displayed the same decorations year after year; but others always had something new each holiday season. Though there were not many, I always felt bad for the houses that only had a couple of decorations or a single string of lights. AT SOME POINT AS I WAS getting older, I began to question the purpose for someone to have so many elaborate decorations; what did these items represent to the owners? Did having more decorations mean that one was more religious? I wondered if all the displays were due to that “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome. For someone to celebrate the holiday, they had to have decorations? I took it a step further; how did it come to pass that putting up decorations was part of the holiday. And what about having a tree in the house; what was the reason for getting ornaments and hanging them on the tree? I started looking at everything and wanted to know where and how did all these customs come into being. Even Santa Claus, what took place centuries ago that people began to talk about a man with flying reindeer, who was able to leave a present in every single decorated house around the world? There are times when I hear someone talk about the amount of presents they have to buy and how much stress this places on them, where I wonder why do they have to buy so much stuff; what does all this stuff have to do with celebrating the holiday? Well, I finally can get some answers because of this Oscar nominated animated movie. SENT TO A REMOTE TOWN TO open a post office, the postmaster’s son Jesper, voiced by Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom, Listen Up Philip), finds a place where all the citizens are fighting each other. The last thing they want to do is mail a letter. If he wants to get back home, he will need to find a way to get people to use the mail. With J.K. Simmons (21 Bridges, Whiplash) voicing Klaus, Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Celeste & Jesse Forever) voicing Alva, Will Sasso (The Three Stooges, Southland Tales) voicing Mr. Ellingboe and Joan Cusack (In & Out, Working Girl) voicing Mrs. Krum; this film festival winning adventure comedy was a pure treat to watch. The story was laid out beautifully, which goes the same for the old-fashioned animation. It may be possible that younger viewers may not get the wonderful message embedded into the script, but it would be okay because there were so many entertaining scenes throughout the picture. I could absolutely see this film becoming a holiday classic; it was so well done on every level.
3 ½ stars
Before I even knew I wanted them I was immediately attracted to this odd looking box stuffed in a bookcase at a relative’s house. The box had inside of it miniature brown colored logs in different sizes with notches near the ends. After looking at the instructions I started building a house with the logs. I was fascinated with this toy and soon changed the house into a fort. It did not take long before my imagination kicked into gear and I started creating my own structures that could only be found on a distant planet. Around the same time I discovered these logs I happened to be over at a friend of the family’s house and was given this toy to play with to occupy my time while the adults sat and visited with each other. This large metallic box was filled with stacks of dull looking girders, screws and fasteners. At first I was confused since there was no instructions but after dumping the contents onto the floor I just started attaching pieces together and wound up building a skyscraper. I was thrilled with my creation as I quickly went on to build something else. By the time the evening was over I had used almost every girder in that box. It turned out to be a good thing because when the hosts saw how I filled up their room, they told me if I put everything away I could keep the toy. I truly believe toys of this nature stimulate a child’s imagination. If you need proof simply watch what happens in this film festival nominated documentary narrated by Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses franchise, Bad Words). DIRECTED by Kief Davidson (Open Heart, The Devil’s Miner) and Daniel Junge (Iron Ladies of Liberia, They Killed Sister Dorothy), I was immediately attracted to the topic since I loved LEGO toys when I was a kid. There is something about LEGOs I believe that provide a comfort to everyone globally. Presently I cannot think of any friends or families who have children who do not have at least one LEGO set. The parts of this movie that surprised me the most were the ones that had to do with the adults who were creating works of art with LEGO bricks and the therapists who were using LEGOs as part of their treatment for autistic children. I had no idea this “simple” toy had such an affect on people. Now I grant you this movie did come across like one big informercial; things were kept on the light side and there was a lot of self promotion. However, there was such a mixture of joy and fun memories I was experiencing I just went along with the feelings, enjoying the scenes. It would not surprise me if after seeing this film a whole bunch of people grab a LEGO set and start playing with it.
2 1/2 stars