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Hammerle On … 'The Lego Movie,' 'The Monuments Men'

Robert Hammerle
February 26, 2014
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“The Lego Movie”

First and foremost, “The Lego Movie” is an adult film masquerading as a children’s movie. Its quality will shock you beyond meaningful description.

For starters, the characters themselves were at all times colossally funny, and this was due to the genius of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Goofy yet stylish, you end up treating them like action characters, and that lies at the center of the film’s inspiration.

However, the script by Dan and Kevin Hageman is diabolically clever from beginning to end. It is an inspirational assault on your senses that overwhelms you with a feeling of warmth. Yet while focusing on much that we hold dear in life, it also has a sarcastic edge that emasculates those in our society who hide behind a holier-than-thou masquerade.

Resisting my regrettable tendency to tell more than you need to know, the film focuses on a small Lego character named Emmet, mistakenly thought to be the savior of the Lego world. Voiced by Chris Pratt, he leads a group of crazed Lego compatriots to save their universe from being glued together by the evil tyrant President Business, voiced by Will Ferrell.hammerle-lego.jpg
Along the way our group of ornery misfits are forced to embrace a basic principle that is all but ignored in their busy society, namely that every person can be creative in their own right. They slowly learn that there is nothing wrong with smiling or lending a helping hand. While tradition is important, so is being unique.

“The Lego Movie” is about the little guy who fights back when he or she decides that enough is enough. In this process, the film barely hides a sharp criticism of the way big business controls a large portion of not just Legoland, but our own country. The villain here is known as Lord Business/President Business, a leader who wants all of society’s members to work hard while they follow a strict rule book. He is interested in doing little more than filling his own coffers, and the rest of society becomes completely expendable.

As I watched “The Lego Movie,” I couldn’t help but think of life in America today. Less than 1 percent of our citizens absorb over half of our national income, and they have succeeded in harnessing a political system that is devastating the middle class. While they fan the flames of the Tea Party, they clamor to reduce access to food stamps while refusing to help raise the minimum wage. You can almost hear them yell, “Don’t raise my taxes, little people!”

Just follow the capitalistic rule book, they say, and everything will be fine. Just ignore the fact that Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, just was awarded a multi-million dollar annual raise after his company paid gigantic fines for massive misconduct. Let’s make sure that people who receive welfare are drug tested, but don’t dare require the same thing of the wealthy who are also receiving massive benefits from the recent national Farm Bill.

What I saw from the little guys in “The Lego Movie” who refused to cave in was what I hoped to see from the residents in West Virginia who are still forced to drink polluted water. If I lived in that state, I would require every businessman and elected official to drink nothing but tap water or explain why they refuse. Come to think of it, I’d demand the same thing of those providing our drinking water here in Indianapolis.

So set aside any doubts you may have and see this movie as soon as possible. Your kids will love it even though they won’t understand it, and you will love it precisely because you do.

“The Monuments Men”

While “The Monuments Men” has been roundly blasted by critics across the country, it still is a powerful historical film. Based on the great book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel, director George Clooney gives the audience a chance to ride along with a few dedicated Allied soldiers who sought nothing more than to preserve Europe’s classic architecture and individual works of art in World War II.

Though the movie itself reveals little of the carnage of the war, it really didn’t have to. As noted by Pulitzer-Prize winner Rick Atkinson in Volume 3 of his liberation trilogy, “The Guns at Last Light,” U.S. casualties in Western Europe totaled 587,000, which included 135,576 dead. Two hundred and fifty thousand Americans laid buried in 457 cemeteries scattered across 86 countries. For an estimated 44,000 lost at sea, nothing could be done. And yet that paled in comparison with the nearly 27 million Russians killed.hammerle-monuments.jpg

“The Monuments Men” simply gives you a close-up view of some of those who risked their lives to retrieve art stolen by the Nazis. If you’ve paid attention to the recent development in Germany where more than 1,280 artworks with ties to the Nazis were recovered from the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, you know that this dramatic quest is still going on to this very day.

Here, you see Clooney’s character leading a team that was sent to various locations in Europe. Sure, when the cast includes John Goodman and Bill Murray, you know there are going to be some funny one-liners. However, to criticize soldiers risking their lives who occasionally had to laugh instead of cry is fundamentally absurd.

Rounding out the cast are Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon and Jean Dujardin, and they are all appealing. In particular, Damon stands out as the soldier working undercover in Paris to try to convince the lovely Claire Simone, played with grace and style by Cate Blanchett, to assist their cause.

I have had the experience of visiting the salt mines in Austria, Hitler’s hideaway at Berchtesgaden as well as the abominable concentration camp in Dresden. We will never forget what the Nazis did to over six million Jews, and fortunately future generations will be able to help soothe that pain with the artwork saved by the tremendous efforts of the Monuments Men.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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