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Staff Favorite

Overall: 8
Story: 7
Animation: 7
Cinematography: 8
Effects: 6
Sound: 7
Music: 6

America: Outlawed

Directed By: Doug Vandegrift

Genre: Western, Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Length: 36:00
Released: January 12th, 2007

Content Advisory:  moderate violence.

Director's Comments

A western film about bandits running from the law.  How many times will they be captured? And how will they escape this time?This is my first brickfilm I ever made.  Funny thing was I wasn't even aware about the brickfilming underworld on the internet until halfway through filming.  Back in 2008 it was nominated for 6 BAFA awards from Bricks in Motion and won 3 for Best Screenplay, Music and Ensemble Cast.  Thanks and Enjoy!- Doug

Staff Review

Randy Yard:
A first film of staggering proportions, Doug Vandegrift's rookie effort is a sprawling half-hour epic in the grand tradition of old westerns, complete with a ragtag team of bandits, a bearded villain, and haggard sheriff. The cinematography is bold, the writing campy, and the voice-acting over the top. It's everything you expect from a film of its type, but the rarity with which the feat is realized in the LEGO medium is what makes this accomplishment extraordinary.

It's not that America: Outlawed is a technical marvel, because it isn't. The animation is solid, with scattered moments of excellence (see the shaving scene for some great examples), but overall it's certainly not jaw-dropping. The writing is clever, but not brilliant. The effects are well-done, but nothing more. No, the success of this film can be pinned solely on a single, often-chased but rarely captured wildcard: the fun factor. From an excellent opening sequence to the obligatory main-street-showdown climax, this is a fun watch and then some. You may always know what's coming--every twist, every narrow escape--but with the film's grand scope, the immersive universe, and the delightfully cheeky abandon with which Vandegrift crafts the film's characters, it's almost impossible not to become completely engrossed in the familiar, almost cozy storyline.

It is worthy of note, however, that the writing may prove to be a bit of a sticking point for some viewers--not because of the quality or the content, but because Vandegrift's trademark pacing. Detractors may deem it torpid while those with more tolerant attention spans may simply refer to it as leisurely, but both will agree that in the hands of another director, a story that Vandegrift takes 36 minutes to tell could (and probably would) have been over in 25.

But is this necessarily a bad thing? If there is one active brickfilmer who can truly be called an auteur, this is your man. While there may be better animators, better effects artists, and better writers on the site, there's one thing that Vandegrift has on all of them: an unmistakable style. Show a minute of this film to anyone familiar with this director's (admittedly limited) body of work, and they'll be able to instantly pinpoint Vandegrift as its creator without exactly knowing how. It's easy to point fingers at the film's languid pacing, but there's more to it than that. America: Outlawed almost seems to delight in its own imperfections, wholeheartedly embracing the various quirks intrinsic to the medium and running with them. From sections of oddly paced animation and backgrounds designed more for art than realism, to the occasionally cartoonish sound mix and the grandiose yet somehow simplistic score, the result is inherently a brickfilm from beginning to end. The film never tries to be anything more than it could potentially achieve, and this nearly flawless realization of its own aspirations is what endears this film to viewers like no technically proficient but lacking-in-scope action-adventure ever could.

If one closely observes each individual merit of America: Outlawed, they will be suitably impressed by what they see... but they are missing the point. This film is not meant to be studied, but rather to be watched, judged, and enjoyed as a whole, for it is a classic example of a film that is more than the sum of its parts. Though it may not be the insurmountable paramount of the medium, what America: Outlawed is is a joy to watch... and watch you should.

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