Toying with product placement

The Lego Movie suggests a grim future for commercial films

Whoever said that Hollywood was running out of original ideas clearly wasn’t considering the shameless marketing cross-over appeal of children’s toys as a workable way to earn dividends at the multiplex.

Sure Pixar’s Toy Story may have popularized the animated toy-movie trend back in 1995 but with the success of such recent play-thing pictures as Battleship and The Transformers franchise producers have unleashed the full potential of adapting toys into monstrous effects-slathered movie machines and opened the door to the boundless world of making films about practically anything from banal board games to dress-up dolls and… Lego.

In today’s vapid cinematic environment even multicoloured plastic cubes have become as cinematically believable as floating lost in space swinging by a web over cityscapes or the impossibly persistent migration of John Travolta’s hairline.

While the filmmakers behind this weekend’s The Lego Movie are clearly having fun with the audacity of making an entire feature about building blocks the success of such an endeavour may lead to more money-hungry less inspirational titles. After all when Hollywood golden-boys pick up on a trend they scorch that earth until even porno producers become bored with the novelty. (It also begs the question — how long until Wicked Pictures releases The X-Rated Lego Movie: Behind the Green Block ?)

The scary part: If as utilitarian a product as Lego can be turned into sexy fodder for film what other gadgets from our youth will be up for grabs next?

• Play-Doh — Don’t laugh. If Lego becomes a box-office hit producers will be queuing up to sign the makers of this malleable muck to a multi-film deal too. If Hollywood actually does create a mega-blockbuster called The Play-Doh Movie however expect the British claymation filmmakers behind Wallace & Gromit to go on a shooting spree down Sunset Boulevard.

• Tamagotchis — While these keychain-sized virtual pets actually became a pair of Japanese animated films the likelihood that the digital toy could be made as a movie in America is slight. But if by some snowball’s chance in hell a film was produced not unlike a neglected Tamagotchi itself the movie audience would surely die a withering ill and unhealthy life by the end credits.

• Rubik’s Cube — There may have been a short-lived television cartoon of this Hungarian invention in the 1980s (in which the titular cube magically came alive after its colours were matched up) but I don’t think the combination puzzle has any real cinematic merit — unless you enjoy watching a swarthy shut-in sit on a folding chair and get frustrated trying to solve a 3D puzzle for four hours. Subtitles would be in Hungarian of course.

• Nerf — The toy-brand primarily made up of various foam balls and weapons is actually ideal for today’s excessively precautionary environment. With overprotective parents ever cautious about violence in their precious babies’ entertainment why not make a dumb movie where all the characters beat on each other with soft swords and no one gets harmed? The moral: Nothing ever hurts and there is no real accountability for your actions. Now off to bed little Billy — you’ve got flu shots and teeth whitening in the morning!

• Lite-Brite — A simple box housing a 25-watt light bulb illuminating a matrix of holes that kids decorate with small coloured plastic pegs Lite-Brite has always been about as intense as watching a housefly clean whatever the hell it cleans off its wings. Still who’s to say some angling producer won’t get the eccentric notion to animate an entire feature using the retro-toy’s translucent pegs? Actually check YouTube — I bet it’s probably been done already.