In addition to sapping our national affection for big corporations, The Lego Movie has now received an equally valid accusation of theft from Jerry Seinfeld, who’s fairly certain the film used one of his jokes as the colorful building blocks of its Superman/Green Lantern dynamic. “I think Lego Movie stole my Superman has issues with Green Lantern bit from Amex Seinfeld and Superman webisode. Anyone else catch that?” Seinfeld tweeted yesterday, referring to an online-only American Express commercial he did in 2004, in which Superman seems briefly annoyed by a woman’s gushing over Green Lantern. You can watch it below; the pertinent bit is around the one-minute mark (though you should watch the whole thing if you want to see how American Express is the real superhero).
Of course, one could argue that Superman’s irritation in the ad is mostly situational—stemming from the fact that he and Seinfeld are growing impatient waiting for the woman to take their picture—and that he never really says or does anything that hints at “issues” with Green Lantern. One could also argue that the relationship between Lego Superman and Lego Green Lantern is more of a play on the one between their voice actors, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, who previously appeared in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 21 Jump Street, and who improvised much of their dialogue—presumably without first seeking inspiration in old credit card commercials.
You could also point out that the idea of superheroes having antagonistic relationships with each other—just like real people!—is not a particularly unique comedic concept. (Particularly if one of them is Green Lantern, who is a dick.) Or that it’s doubtful anyone actually remembers this ad besides Jerry Seinfeld, maybe Patrick Warburton, and the good people at American Express.
Still, Seinfeld continued to stack more LEGO barbs: “Also loved Lego Movie. A story would have been a nice added touch, though…,” said the man who wrote Bee Movie, about a bee that falls in love with Renee Zellweger, and who made his millions with comic observations about food and a show that was proudly about nothing. But he also added, “I'm glad they did. It was a fun bit. #legomymaterial," in a jokey, yet charitable nod that he was totally cool with the stealing he’d just casually accused the film of in front of his 2.28 million followers.
In related news, Jerry Seinfeld was once accused by Swedish animators of plagiarizing their animated bee movie, Beebylon, which Seinfeld laughed off by deadpanning, “It is entirely possible that somebody else came up with an idea about making a movie about bees.” And, as two astute Twitter responders reminded him, plagiarism accusations were also leveled against a cookbook written by his wife Jessica, whom he stole from her husband of just four months. But as Seinfeld taught us, it’s not stealing if it’s something you need.