In a previous post, I wrote about the ancient Greek references in the The Lego Movie (see post ‘The Lego Movie and Aristophanes’ Alternate Realities in the Birds and the Clouds’). Here, I focus on a Roman connection. Until 2014, the most famous person to hold the name Vitruvius was undoubtedly Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, the first century BCE (and part of the first CE) Roman author of a ten chapter treatise on architecture, appropriately entitled On Architecture (De Architectura). Since 2014, the most famous holder of that name is no less undoubtedly the character Vitruvius from The Lego Movie, voiced by actor Morgan Freeman.
[Film summary with parts relevant to this post]
The Lego Movie (Lord and Miller, 2014) recounts the fantasy of a boy named Finn (Jadon Finn), as he plays — without permission — amidst his father’s vast lego collection. The father (Will Ferrell) has meticulously created a lego metropolis, which he does not want touched or changed in any way. In order to defend his creation, he forbids his son from playing with it, thus banishing the opportunity for the two of them to play together and enjoy a relationship free from rules and domestic hierarchy. Finn sneaks into the basement anyway, picking a nondescript lego construction worker Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) on which to project his loneliness and helplessness. He imagines for Emmet a universe in which to deal with his frustrations with his father, as well as hopes for a solution.
Overhanging the whole fantasy is a sense of impending doom at the machinations of the tyrannical Lord Business, a lego character whose diabolical plan it is to immobilize every other lego character. Lord Business stands in for Finn’s father, who plans to glue his entire lego metropolis in place so as to keep all aspects of it in perfect order. At the same time, of course, he will destroy his son’s ability to play with it and therefore an important part of his fantasy life. For Finn’s father, the lego world offers a fantasy of control, while Emmet’s ordinariness on the other hand speaks to Finn’s sense of inadequacy — not just in general, but especially in comparison to the evil brilliance of Lord Business/his father. Ultimately he chooses to make common cause with the (also) brilliant and creative Lord Business, rather than try to defeat him, as fantasy and reality collide at the conclusion of the film.
Lord Business is the avatar of his father strictly in connection with his oppressive role in the lego room and any associated aspects. Emmet also has a vision of a mysterious, seemingly divine ‘Man Upstairs’. This turns out to be Finn’s father as well, but in a different aspect — the part of his father undefined by the Lord Business caricature, the part where there is potential for growth. In Finn’s fantasy, Emmet’s vision of the Man Upstairs qualifies him to be snatched from his bland existence by a female Lego character — the exotically monikered Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), whose real name is Lucy.
Delivering the The Terminator II line, “Come with me if you want to live,” Lucy whisks him away from ordinariness into a series of alternate realities a la The Matrix. In the non-animated dramatic frame of the film, the father actually is upstairs — the lego set is in the basement. This bifurcation of the father and son into characters both inside and outside the fantasy frame sets up the surprising conclusion of the film, where Emmet/ Finn finds rapprochement with, rather than a victory over, Lord Business/his father.
Lego Vitruvius of course hearkens back to the character Morpheus from The Matrix (1999, The Wachowskis), portrayed by Laurence Fishburne. The name Morpheus belongs ultimately to the god of sleep depicted by the Roman poet Ovid in his epic the Metamorphoses. Like Morpheus, the name Vitruvius is Latin and ancient-sounding. Roman Vitruvius, however, was not a god, but an architect and author — a master builder, if you will. The part of Vitruvius’ treatise relevant to this discussion of The Lego Movie concerns education.
In the introduction to Book 6 of his On Architecture Marcus Vitruvius argues that fathers or other kinsmen should educate the families junior members. He commends his parents for ensuring that he received a broad liberal education, which, he notes, has equipped him to write a treatise such as the On Architecture. Vitruvius addresses Emperor Augustus in this introductory section, emphasizing that architecture is a liberal arts discipline worthy of esteem, in addition to a useful knowledge resource. As a noble precedent for his claim that the best architects are taught by their fathers or other kinsmen, Vitruvius notes that the comic playwrights of Athens praised their city for limiting the requirement that children maintain their parents in old age to only those parents who had seen to the education of their children. Other Greek states, says Vitruvius, required children to maintain their elderly parents without exception. 
Of the four comic playwrights that Vitruvius names, it is number three on the list that concerns us: Aristophanes. Cloudcuckooland and The Thinktank, key locations in The Lego Movie, derive from Aristophanes’ plays Birds and Clouds respectively. I argue for the relevance of these plays to the themes of The Lego Movie in my earlier post, Here I stress only that it is the Roman Vitruvius, whose namesake Lego Vitruvius is, bridges the film’s allusions to Aristophanes’ plays to the theme of parents’ responsibility for educating their children.
Emmet’s final heroic act, taken after his rapprochement with Lord Business, is to leap beyond his reality and into that of Finn and his father. There, Finn must now duplicate in his reality the coming to terms that his Lego avatar Emmet has done in fantasy. By doing this — getting his father to engage in his imaginative life — Finn both lays the foundation for a more positive father-son relationship and brings the film’s plot its resolution. 
By winning permission to build in the Lego city, Finn also wins recognition from his father. This enables him to move beyond his isolated fantasies contrived to help him cope with inferiority and loneliness, and and into a shared fantasy space with his father. Although his father engages with Finn at the level of his games, this time together is also a fresh opportunity for Finn’s development through (hopefully) positive parental influence. All this also frames Lego products as positive educational additions to the family unit. The film has already framed Emmet’s character development as his education both with regard to himself and to the appreciation of the skills and limitations of a master builder. His guides on this journey are Lego Vitruvius and Wyldstyle.
While this post is not about the film’s highly commercial dimension, Lego’s marketing has long commanded respect among parents for its claims to educational and developmental value.  The Lego Movie ends with a modern spin on the hierarchical character of both the Roman pedagogical model and the novice/master dynamic of the conventional ‘hero’s journey’. Instead of a parent attempting to impart knowledge to a child about how to build more perfect Lego cities, a dynamic of shared play takes over both father and son. It is in this new relationship of play that the theme of education reaches its conclusion.
Part of the joke in the final sequence of the film is that the father’s hobby is a lego set with recommended ages of 8-14. “Those are just suggestions,” insists his father. The symbolism of a father using educational time to join in his son’s game might not have faired well with Marcus Vitruvius. Officially, at least, a Roman father should see to his sons’ education, but should not be involved in children’s games. Presumably — and hopefully (from my culturally relative perspective) — the reality was more complex. However that may be, education as play is a key characteristic of Lego as a commodity. The conclusion of the film shows educational play happening through Lego building. Now that it happens between parent and child together, rather than separately, Finn’s father is fulfilling the role that the Roman Vitruvius assigned to parents and in support of which he cited the example of the Athenian comic poets’ praise of Athens
 De Architectura, 6.2: Non minus poetae, qui antiquas comoedias graece scripserunt, easdem sententias versibus in scaena pronuntiaverunt, ut Crates, Chionides, Aristophanes, maxime etiam cum his Alexis, qui Athenienses ait oportere ideo laudari, quod omnium Graecorum leges cogunt parentes a liberis, Atheniensium non omnes nisi eos, qui liberos artibus erudissent.
 The idea of a daughter participating in this lego-building relationship is introduced as a comical note of chaos in the closing moment of the film, when Finn’s little sister’s invaders from ‘Planet Duplon’ burst onto the scene.
 By way of an example from a quick internet search, here is the following from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning:
Skills Lego develop :
- Lego provides tools that develop lateral thinking in a fun environment
- It teaches kids to think in three dimensions
- It improves literacy as kids work with instructions
- It develops problem-solving, organization, and planning by construction
- It improves creativity
- It enhances communication and critical thinking
- It boosts kids motor development.