550. Brick Like Me

Original airdate: May 4, 2014

The premise:
Homer wakes up in a world entirely made of LEGO, but he begins to get flashes back to his flesh-and-blood reality featuring he and Lisa finding common ground through building playsets together.

The reaction: “It’s not selling out, it’s co-branding!” Whatever lets you sleep at night, guys. This Homer line opens the show, as this episode was meant to coincide with the release of the new Simpsons LEGO figures and sets. But, to this episode’s simultaneous benefit and detriment, it also came right off the heels of the wild success of The LEGO Movie. Despite it being written and directed by super geniuses Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the brilliant minds behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Clone High, most people weren’t really expecting the movie to be as absolutely astounding as it was. It surely reignited people’s love of LEGO, so that probably helped this episode coming out during the wave of it. But, it also leaves the show in a weird place where all their cute LEGO jokes and sight gags are kind of unconscious retreads of material from The LEGO Movie, except not as sharp or gorgeous looking. But there’s no real point to comparing and contrasting these two, so let’s drop that and look at this for what it is. With pretty great looking animation and a shocking amount of jokes that actually land, this is definitely the strongest episode I’ve seen in years, but a mostly shit script holds it back from any notoriety for me. Even in CG LEGO, the never-ending problem of characters reiterating the plot and saying how they feel is in full force here, in particularly obnoxious fashion. In the real world, Homer bonds with Lisa over her LEGO sets, but is hurt when she blows him off to hang with some older girls. So he takes refuge in his coma-induced LEGO world, “everything fits with everything else and nobody ever gets hurt,” a line that is repeated verbatim at least five or six times. As he talks with others and bonds with Lisa, he continues to explain what’s happening and say exactly what he’s feeling over and over. His epiphany comes from realizing “the fact that kids grow up is what makes time with them special.” How do I know? Because he says that verbatim, and in the previous scene, he monologues all of the things he’ll never do if he’s stuck in non-progressing time. We don’t see Homer getting bored with doing the same thing day in and day out, or have a realization based on something someone else says; the only thing the writers can do is have Homer literally say aloud what his conflict is, what he feels about it, and how he can fix it. In the limitless imagination world of LEGO, the storytelling is still stuck in one dimension as always.

Three items of note:
– This episode also suffers a little bit in comparison to a similar episode of Community that aired within a month of this, wherein a 40-year-old Jeff Winger goes into a coma, taking refuge in a G.I. Joe-styled dream where he can revel in his nostalgic youth forever. It features cartoon Jeff getting flashes back to his life-action self, as well as acknowledging that they’re all just action figures, similar to the moments in this where LEGO Homer gets flesh fingers and gets flashes of his ink-and-paint “real” world. “G.I. Jeff” is a thousand times better written than this slop, so that doesn’t help.
– The scenes in the real world are written even worse than the LEGO stuff. Homer finds himself enjoying playing LEGO with Lisa, and spends an entire scene expositing that fact. Later, he walks in on her hanging out with three older girls, who all get their own dialogue explaining why they’re there, because hell if I know. They’re bonding over “The Starving Games” book series, and boy, I wonder what that’s a parody of? Terrible, just fucking terrible. The ending tag features them going to see the movie, where they show it’s just a trifling love triangle that the girls are going apeshit over. I’ve seen the movies, haven’t read the books, and I’m not, nor have I ever been, a young girl, but I don’t know if that’s the biggest appeal of this series. I’ve seen a couple other parodies that hinge on Katniss and the two guys, but it was never really a huge critical part of the movies. Maybe the writers’ daughters are all about the romance angle and so they wrote it that way, but it felt a little reductive and tone-deaf to have the only parody angle be that the Hunger Games is just like Twilight, part two.
– It really is impossible to watch this and not think about The LEGO Movie. The ending with Bart showing up in his giant robot, hodgepodged together out of various in-congruent styles and franchises felt exactly like the finale of that movie with Emmett and the gang building their machines to fight back against Lord Business. I don’t know the facts, but I’m pretty certain all of these similarities are unintentional, but it still stings a bit when they lampshade it at the end, as Homer describes his adventure (“I had this crazy dream where I was in a world made of LEGO bricks and learned important lessons about parenting!” “Isn’t that kind of the plot of-” “No it’s not. It’s a new plot.”) As usual, pointing out your shitty writing doesn’t make it any less shitty.

One good line/moment: This is always a struggle, at times an impossibility to pick out something I actually enjoyed, but as I mentioned, this is easily the best episode they’ve done in a while, with a lot of gags that worked. My favorite scene was the church with Lovejoy, which was strong through almost the whole thing (“What if everything isn’t made of plastic? I think there’s more to this world!” “You mean, like decals? The Orthodox don’t use them, but we are a reformed congregation.”)

25 thoughts on “550. Brick Like Me

  1. How do you reference the Hunger Games and avoid the part where kids are murdering each other? It’s hard to believe that’s possible.

  2. Contrary to popular belief, the idea for this episode came out before The LEGO Movie did. According to the writers, that bit with Emmett and Wyldstyle at the end was tacked on after The LEGO Movie came out due to coincidence.

  3. Tied with “The War of Art” as the best of the season. A really sweet Homer-Lisa history, accompanied by a fantastic animation.

    And for once, it’s a much-hyped episode that is not offensive, disappointing and boring (That reminded me, “Clown in the Dumps” IS COMING).

    1. Please don’t remind me of that episode. I remember getting hyped to see who died because the Simpsons were pretty much forcing it down our throats – and it was (SPOILER ALERT) Krusty’s father, who hardly appeared at all…

  4. The first episode I had caught first-run in several years. It was all right. Fun visually, but really nothing special. I’ve only watched two new episodes since; “Clown in the Dumps” and “Simpsorama”, both from next season and both trash.

    1. As a big Futurama fan, I predict a sour experience from Mike.

      Next season has some real mixed bag episode. Some real putrid episodes and some where it seems they are “experimenting.” Mostly thinking of “Simpsonsorama”, “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner” and that Halloween episode. Plus the failed publicity stunt that was “Clown in the Dumps.” Seemed like there was actual fear the series was going to fail renewal at the writers’ studio.

      Also next season is where I stopped watching the show. I think Mike’s reviews will get me to watch them for the first time, just so I can see where I agree and disagree with him now

  5. Not only is this the best episode of the season, it’s also the best episode of season 24-26. Fortunately, 26 is when things started to improve. Or rather, I found myself just with a meh attitude from 26+ compared to the god awful wanting to gouge my eyes out of 24 and 25.

      1. Why do you use HD like it’s some type of disease? A bad episode is a bad episode whether it is standard def or high def.

      2. Oh, and I disagree owl. There have still be some solid episodes. Halloween of Horror is a phenomenal episode and one of the franchise’s best.

      3. Kaiju no Kami:
        Sure, you can find bad stuff even in traditional arts, but HD is actually a disease: it invariably means “soulless and cheap”.

      4. Kaiju, what I meant is that all “Second Al Jean era” seasons are pretty much indistinguishable for me, EXCEPT that I can distinguish a “pre-HD” season and a “post-HD” season obviously just by looking at it. Ergo, post HD I lose any way to distinguish seasons from one another.
        I propose the following “periodization” of the series : Archaic Era (Tracey Ulman Shorts to sometime during Season 2); Classic Era (sometime during Season 2 to sometime during Season 8); “High Intermediate Era” (sometime during Season 8 to sometime during Season 10); “Low Intermediate Era” (sometime during Season 10 to Season 12); “High Zombie Simpsons Era” (Season 13 to HD); “Low Zombie Simpsons Era” (HD Episodes).

      5. But isn’t that the way it should be? Any series should look the same from start to finish.

    1. People have been assuring me since I stopped watching the show (circa season 14) that “Season [x] is where the show starts to improve,” or “Season [y] is almost as good as the classic years.” Yet every time i check it out, it’s still shit.

  6. Am I the only one who didn’t find “The Lego Movie” genius or something? It’s not bad, it’s kinda funny and has some clever stuff in it, but I think the praises it got it’s because people standard for movies are incredibly low nowadays.

    And this episode is just a boring version of that movie. As I already said, people’s standard for a Simpsons episode is so low when there is actually a coherent plot they call it a masterpiece(as they did with this episode).

    1. No you aren’t. Mike didn’t think so either. It is still shackled by the usual problems of HD era Simpsons, only that it has more technical effort a marginally better script

      To me, the “good” HD era episodes are only just decently entertaining and nothing more. Kind of on the level of the weaker Futurama episodes.

      I recall it being said that this episode was the best the HD Simpsons is capable of doing, which is more of a sign of the series’ decay over the generations than anything

    2. I actually really liked the Lego Movie, and I’ve disliked or been ambivalent about plenty of other recent films that have been praised so I don’t feel my standards are too low.

      IMHO its humour was its primary asset (most of the jokes worked for me), and so obviously if it’s not to your comedic taste, you aren’t going to like it nearly as much. Besides that, it had a hell of a lot of heart and emotion; great animation; really good attention to detail; a decent storyline with consistency, coherence, and identifiable themes; and of course, a healthy dose of nostalgia. All these together I think add up to it being considered a great film (I don’t think I’d go so far as to say it’s genius, myself) by many.

      What’s more, I think it’s buoyed up perhaps subconsciously by many simply for the fact that it could so easily have been a cheap cash grab, just putting together a complete uninspired piece of crap and knowing it will still make a profit because people will watch something called “The LEGO Movie”. It really did come out of nowhere, and was a real work of art especially considering what it could have been.

      1. (I haven’t, OTOH, seen this Simpsons episode, and am not sure that I want to.)

    3. Oh, you meant the movie, somehow I read it as “The Lego Episode”. Sorry, wish I could delete my post.

      Reading comprehension fail on my part.

      And I can’t even answer your question because I’ve never seen it.

      1. I went back and watched this episode, and other than them unnecessarily driving into the ground that bit about “where everything fits and no one ever gets hurts,” I loved pretty much everything that took place in the Lego world, even if some of the jokes were obvious. I was also deeply disappointed whenever the show veered back into the “real world,” where the clunky and over-explained narrative about Lisa and the older girls and the movie was going on, but I had similar feelings about the real Lego movie; just make the Lego world the story’s reality and make it as funny as humanly possible.
        If you have an abiding love of Lego that you’ve carried through your life, the episode is certainly worth watching. Otherwise, probably not.

  7. Unlike Married to the Blob, this one was still good. Yeah, it does still have asshole Homer moments, like when he’s telling Lisa parents don’t actually like to play with their kids, but it features Legos, so that alone makes it great. It helps that there are a ton of great jokes dealing with the Legos to go with it though.

    Also, since my girlfriend got the house and Kwik-E-Mart for her birthday and Xmas last year we’ve been wanting to recreate as much of Springfield as we can and this episode helps to know what pieces should be used for certain aspects. I just wish they would hurry up and release more Simpsons Lego stuff already. There was no reason Itchy and Scratchy should have gotten made while important characters like Skinner, Moe, Barney, Sideshow Mel, Sideshow Bob, and Ned’s family did not.

  8. “Even in CG LEGO, the never-ending problem of characters reiterating the plot and saying how they feel is in full force here, in particularly obnoxious fashion.” Now we know if they wanted to do an ambitious LEGO episode, they should have improved their own writing to fit with it, and remember to show us as much as they tell us of Homer’s personal conflict with being stuck in the LEGO world, if not showing us more.

  9. Oh, man! That is a very bad sign when this is the best episode The Simpsons has done in a while, only by comparison because the writing is still stuck in one dimension because Homer keeps telling how he feels with little to no show of why, it badly parodies The Hunger Games (I would rather watch Treehouse of Horror XXVII over this to see The Simpsons parody The Hunger Games), and I think the episode would have been a lot better if the subplot with LEGO Bart rebuilding Springfield Elementary School was the main plot. I should really watch The War of Art again to make sure that one is any better. I’m sure it is.

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