The first Lego Movie was one of the most unique moments in modern cinema history. It was an absolutely shameless bit of corporate synergy that at the same time was a visual marvel filled with laughs, amazing animation, and an emotional gut punch of an ending that was surprisingly profound, taking us out of the animated world and into a reality of emotional resonance we just weren’t prepared for. It was a perfect storm where everything that could have gone wrong ended up going oh so right.
So by that measure, there’s no way the sequel could equal the predecessor. It just really isn’t possible. Still, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a fun piece of animated comedy. The emotional connection is fairly lost at this point, and some of the subversive moments from the previous film are abandoned, but it’s still a decent bit of entertainment.
Picking up immediately where the last film left off, father Will Ferrell (this archive scene serving as his only on camera appearance; he’s otherwise reduced to bookend Lego scenes as Lord Business and a few off screen lines in the real world) has told his son Finn that since he can play in the basement now, so too can his sister Bianca, and an invasion of Duplo blocks begins. A battle breaks out that desolates the Lego world, and after five years, it’s turned it into a dystopian wasteland for everyone except for Emmet (Chris Pratt), who begins every day just like he did before, with a smile on his face, and everyone’s favorite pop parody song in his heart.
Emmet continues to try to make the best out of every situation, including building a house in the badlands for himself and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). Unfortunately, this new building attracts the attention of alien forces, led by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz of Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and after an intense battle in the desert (because the kids love Mad Max references), she kidnaps Lucy and all of our other secondary character friends from the first movie (Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, and Will Arnett as Batman; Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson do not return to reprise their roles) to take them to the Systar System, i.e. Bianca’s room in the real world.
Criticized by Lucy for not being willing to grow up and get gritty, or at least enjoy some occasional brooding, Emmet turns his house into a spaceship and sets off to rescue his friends. Along the way, he encounters danger and is saved by Rex Dangervest, a Master Wrecker, who is literally a combination of all of Chris Pratt’s more macho characters. He even has an entire crew of trained raptors.
Over in the Systar System, the crew meets their leader, Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (a fully committed Tiffany Haddish), who is very unconvincing in telling everyone that she’s not evil. She has a plan to wed Batman (after expertly negging him through song) at 5:15, which Emmet has dreamed about and believes is an apocalyptic prophecy for Ar-Mom-ageddon (mom is played by Maya Rudolph), where everyone is banished to the “Bin of Stor-Ahge” (in case you had any hopes of this not mimicking the Toy Story films, sorry). Lucy and Rex believe that their friends are being brainwashed with glitter and even more catchy pop songs, so it’s up to Emmet to put a stop to everything.
The visuals are just as impressive as they were in the first film, with some great sight gags. I feel like more of the jokes are tailored to the adults in the audience than the kids, in particular a Lego cameo by Bruce Willis, because I highly doubt eight-year-olds are going to get Die Hard homages. Still, the jokes most definitely land.
The film does falter a bit though on two fronts. First is the music. In the last film, “Everything is Awesome” was meant to be a meta joke against conformity. This time, not only is the song back, but it’s repurposed to be a beacon of hope for a better, less aware world that we should all aspire to, and given one of the major plot twists of the film, it also betrays one of the better characters in the series to date. Also, whereas the first movie basically just had that one song over and over again, this time we’re almost into full-on musical territory, with Haddish getting two numbers, an even more meta joke pop song (think of Lamb Chop’s “The Song That Doesn’t End,” only with more Auto-Tuned EDM dreck), and a final track over the credits by The Lonely Island where they rap about how much they love reading the credits.
On the other end of things is the emotional message. By definition, this film couldn’t have the same surprise tug of the heartstrings, if only because we know it’s coming, having seen the first film. Clearly something has to be resolved between Finn and Bianca, and for a good portion of the film we’re just wondering what it is, and if it’s worth the time to get to that moment. And really, it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, the film is fine, and worthy of your eyeballs, but we’re guarded against that big of a left turn this time, and with names like “Systar System,” and “Watevra Wa-Nabi,” you can tell the clues are more on the side of smacking you in the face rather than being germane to the adventure. Last time we had to wonder what the “Kragle” was before the reveal. There’s no such mystery this time.
If you have kids, go ahead and treat them to this one. Hell, the upcharge for 3D was fairly worth it for me. If you’re just a kid at heart with some nerdy leanings like me, just wait for the Blu-Ray.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Do you like Chris Pratt better doing action or comedy? How much did Will Ferrell get paid for four lines? Let me know!