The truth of the matter cannot be ignored: The LEGO Movie was an ad. In fact, with its contagious energy and surprising knack for joining big ideas with tiny details, it was about as good an ad as there is – you could say it was, like its hypnotizingly catchy anthem declared (over…and over…and over again), awesome.
Now, five years and two spinoffs later, we have The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, another advertisement, but unfortunately a far less distracting or clever one. It’s still a lot of fun. It’s just not as rousing or as inventive as its predecessor – which is certainly no easy task – even though it’s built with many of the same pieces. But that may be a part of the problem.
The comical twosome behind the first one, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, are back this time as writers, with Shrek Forever After and Trolls director Mike Mitchell at the helm. The film isn’t short on its supply of catchy anthems, including the aptly titled “Catchy Song,” and most of the original voice cast – led by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Arnett, who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Dark Knights – has returned as well.
But The Lego Movie 2 is at a pretty serious and immediate disadvantage, given that the profound twist at the end of the first film – the realization that the entire story is a product of a little boy’s imagination playing in his basement – is a known fact this time around from start to finish. The movie jumps in and out of the real world repeatedly, frequenting the household pandemonium caused as that same boy (played once again by Jadon Sand) is forced to play with his little sister (The Florida Project star Brooklynn Prince).
As a result, the LEGO pieces down below are experiencing a similar crisis. Picking up exactly where the first one ended, we’re reminded of who built who, including the distorted, wide-eyed Duplo figurines threatening Bricksburg. The ensuing battle between them and the returning characters is one of the film’s best and most direct exhibits of the siblings’ rivalry.
We’re then catapulted five years into the future. The sunny and colorful city that lovable hero Emmet (Pratt), and rebel Lucy (Banks) once called home has been turned into a desert wasteland called Apocalypseburg, in obvious and happy homage to Mad Max: Fury Road (the first of, thankfully, many nods to pop culture; see how many you can find). Here, there’s little else to do other than brood (coffee is described as “the bitter liquid that provides the only semblance of pleasure left in these dark times”).
But through all of this, Emmet manages to be his cutely cheerful, happy-go-lucky self. What’s different this time is that he isn’t proud of it; his attempts to be edgy in order to impress the hardened Lucy are adorable, but obviously ineffective. However, he doesn’t have to wait long for the opportunity to prove himself once Apocalypseburg is invaded by the seemingly nefarious General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), who kidnaps several of the first movie’s characters, including Lucy and Batman (Arnett), and brings them to the “Systar” System.
Like most sequels to animated kids films, The LEGO Movie 2, doesn’t alter the format of its jokes too severely. Fortunately, when many of those jokes are self-aware and self-deprecating like these – the countless pop culture references are worth mentioning again – the format manages to not grow old. A scene early on sees Lucy acknowledge that she did all the hard work in the last movie, while the man, Emmet, reaped the reward, and a new cocky character named Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), with his subtitled army of velociraptors, mocks and condenses the many onscreen heroics throughout the lead actor’s career.
Some of the new things that are made – including a song and plot line involving a marriage bidding between Batman and the queen of the Systar System (Tiffany Haddish) – slow things down a bit. As does the frequent transporting between the real and LEGO worlds. But all in all, though it may not be totally awesome, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is still fun, which is what it should be, and you’ll still leave with a song stuck in your head. Maybe even two.
The LEGO Movie 2 won’t have to sweat bricks in order to amuse audiences of all ages, but the older ones will probably be disappointed in this film’s not so awesome tendency to follow instructions.