What That Lego Movie Will Cost You

lego movieIt cost $60 million to make the new Lego movie, but as I sat there watching it with my seven-year-old recently, all I could think was: Dear God, how much is it going to cost me?

Even after I took my 3-D glasses off, the churning in my stomach wouldn’t stop because every scene seemed to feature a few hundred potential Lego kits that the company will soon sell to me, my child, and assorted relatives. And yours, too, by the way.

In the first 30 minutes alone I identified 18,679 towers, vehicles, ships, towns, oceans, rainbows, submarines, animals, superheroes and other stuff that will soon arrive in stores—if it’s not there already–packed into boxes with plastic bags of plastic parts and stacks of directions that will make you want to run to IKEA and assemble something equally frustrating, but actually useful.

And what’s the damage? Well, let’s say that my estimate of 18,679 is a tad overblown. So I’ll whack off about 75% for a more realistic estimate of 4,600 new products spun out over the coming year or two or three (in my world, that’s three birthdays, three holidays, and a certain amount of briber—um, incentives). So, take 4,600 multiplied by an average of, say, $12.95 (the Old West kit and the Pirate Ship are going to skew high), for a modest outlay of about $59,500, total.

A year of private college, is what we’re talking here.

But you can take out loans for college. You can even sock away money in a tax-deferred college savings account known as a 529 plan. But nobody does that, let’s be honest, because we’re all buying Legos.

Listen up, my fellow parents, before the siege begins: I have a confession. I buy those stupid Lego kits blindly—because they keep my popcorn-popper kid quiet for an hour or two (which is crucial in a Manhattan apartment); they occupy his friends when they come over (which is crucial no matter where you live); and—and this is the most embarrassing part of all—I believe they are making my kid smarter. Because they come from Scandinavia.

Oh yes. I see it in your eyes. You’ve been sucked into the Nordic Lego myth too—it’s the Baby Einstein of our parenting generation. You look at those teensy parts and you think: Whoa, this builds fine motor coordination.

You look at the impenetrable directions that have given you an ulcer, lo these last three years, and you think: Ah, but this develops persistence.

You look at the other kids, the master builders who invent off-book Lego creations, and you think: That kid is better at Legos than my kid, so this stupid toy must be doing something.

The company can smell your anxious sense of competition—and they leverage it. They squeeze you into that tight dark space in your brain where you can’t think straight because you must give your child Every Possible Advantage. Meanwhile, you block out the reality, proven by studies conducted by people who know people at NASA on Facebook, that the so-called gyre—the whirling vortex of plastic crap in Pacific Ocean that’s the size of Texas—is 69% Legos.

You willingly forget that throughout this year, thousands of parents will shuffle into the kitchen to make their morning coffee—and suffer a paralyzing foot puncture by a tiny red block the size of a rat’s brain.

And then you cover your eyes and pull out your wallet and spend thousands of your post-tax earnings on a series of $9.95 or $29.95 kits to make a “spaceship” or “castle” that falls apart within 15 minutes after it’s assembled. What kind of investment is this? Do you get any sort of return? Really?

The only thing I know for sure is that it’s cheaper to buy yourself some free mom time with a Lego kit than by hiring a babysitter. Other than that? I just saw some new data on the “crazy” things people have paid for with credit cards—car payments, adult entertainment, bail. None of that surprised me. I just want to know what they spent on Legos.

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