Despite the abundance of information and previews out there regarding this episode (including a generous amount of coverage on our own site, of course) I managed to avoid a lot of details about it prior to watching. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that for other fans, but in my case I didn’t want my opinion of the episode (specifically, my review score) to be tainted by anything I read beforehand. The only things I knew were that The Simpsons would be doing a LEGO-themed episode, and its conception and production commencement came before The Lego Movie was a thing.
Generally I think I maintained an unbiased – or balanced, at least – opinion prior to viewing “Brick Like Me.” I had a bit of a lofty expectation given the coverage, but was still weary of the chance the episode could be too gimmicky.
The episode’s story began in the LEGO Simpsons world, with Homer awakening in bed and telling Marge about having a crazy dream. He went about his normal daily routines for a while, but started to notice that things were a bit odd, as he had visions of normal (well, two-dimensional cartoon) life in himself, and eventually other characters in the show.
After having an animated flashback vision at The Android’s Dungeon whilst buying Lisa a LEGO set, Homer recalled already building an identical one with his daughter at some point, and then entering a toy construction contest with her. In a later flashback, he also remembered Lisa ditching the contest & Homer to see a movie with her new older friends, and him accidentally getting crushed & knocked unconscious by a large LEGO structure while attending the competition solo.
Back in LEGO Land (the world, not the amusement park) Comic Book Guy assessed the situation by explaining that, “Apparently our whole world is a fantasy in the mind of an emotionally-devastated Homer Simpson. The real Homer fears losing his daughter’s love, so he invented this toy world where nothing will ever change.”
After Marge consoled & reassured Homer (“Lisa’s growing up. It’s a really complicated time in a girl’s life from age 8 until, well, pretty much the rest of the way.”) he realized that watching his kids grow up is what makes having them worthwhile. After embracing this ideal and defeating Comic Book Guy’s plan to keep the LEGO fantasy world alive (Homer: “You’re the bad guy? I thought you were the rule-explainer guy.”) Homer came-to in the real world with Lisa by his side, and accepted that she needed to be with her friends.
In Case You Missed It:
1) Homer’s “good” excuse for hitting Krusty with his car: “I was distracted driving.”
2) I own Candy Land. It’s not that bad, Homer. Especially as a drinking game.
3) Best exchange of the episode occurred when Marge was reassuring Homer about his real-life vision:
Marge: “It was probably a mini-stroke.”
Homer: “You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
4) I thoroughly enjoyed Homer approving of Marge’s bedroom advances and seductively replying with: “I always need that. I only don’t ask because being rejected gets old.”
5) “Marge, did you replace our regular mirror with a magical mirror from a mystical salesman at a weird store that if we went back to find it, it wouldn’t be there anymore?”
6) “Oh, brick me!”
7) The vending machine at Moe’s sold “Hats & Hair.”
8) Do they still make the LEGO ghosts? I definitely had a set that came with them as a kid.
9) The token religious jab of the episode came from Marge: “When I’m troubled I always find solace in the air-tight logic of religion.”
10) Moe referred to Flanders as “mustache.”
11) Chief Wiggum had a cameo when Homer destroyed his police helicopter. (“Put it in Tupperware boys, we’ll re-build it tomorrow.”)
12) What a way to sum up the best things in life, courtesy of Homer: “I miss burning my mouth on pizza, and David Blaine stunts where he could really die.”
13) Nice timing with the lightsaber barf. May the Fourth be with everyone.
14) Great to see the creators sneak in a joke about the episode’s coincidental similarities to The LEGO Movie. And the “co-branding” quip.
The product of two years of labor, this deviation from traditional Simpsons episodes was quite successful and undeniably well-executed, in this writer’s humble opinion. Obviously the show has been around forever, and although stunts like this episode can seem gimmicky, they serve a good purpose: keeping things fresh.
Basically, there’s a fine line between creativity and pulling a cheap trick; between re-invention and desperation. I feel this episode managed to walk the lines of both perfectly. If they tried this approach too much, it would seem like they’re grasping at straws; but if fresh, new, or out of the ordinary episodes are never attempted, then a series can appear bland and repetitive. Besides, an inventive approach has worked in the past for our little yellow friends (The Simpsons, I am referring to, before I get any hate mail) with things like a hodgepodge story format in “22 Short Films About Springfield”, a number of trilogy episodes with separate stories, and changes in animation, like in the “Homer3” 3D segment of “Treehouse of Horror VI.”
There’s also a fine line between heartfelt and sappy, when it comes to storylines on The Simpsons. It has always been a show with some emotion, something that makes it feel like a parody of real life, rather than a complete fabrication. Early episodes, like “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Bluefish,” have tugged at viewers’ heartstrings, while other forgettable episodes attempted the same, only to end up oozing straight sap. This episode was thankfully in the former category. I’ll even admit the “kids grow up fast” storyline is a bit of an overplayed cheap shot in television, but it’s something that every family show touches on from time to time, so why not?
I also enjoyed the Hunger Games jabs, despite not seeing any of the films or reading the books. Although in response to Homer’s query of “When do they get to killing the children? I just wanted to see kids fight to the death.” – I say rent Battle Royale, my friend. Rent Battle Royale.
And yes, granted, this episode wasn’t nearly as funny as The Simpsons of old – episodes that would routinely get 9.5’s or 10’s in my book. It wasn’t even as funny as some other episodes this season. Still, the amount of humor it contained, coupled with a sweet story-line, and an outstanding idea and achievement in animation, made for a solid, memorable, insta-classic.
Say what you want about the current and recent quality of episodes, but there’s no doubting that the show’s creators can still come up with unique and entertaining programming after 25 years.