Synopsis – It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: Lego Duplo invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild.
My Take – Released back in 2014, The Lego Movie took everyone by surprise by being infinitely better than pretty much anyone thought a film about interlocking plastic bricks could possibly be. Despite being a film based on a toy, it was visually inventive and quirky enough that didn’t feel like an ad. Instead it was a vibrant and exciting film that had stunning depth and intelligence, all the while featuring a unique and refreshing brand of self-referential humor that has since proved hugely influential in blockbuster cinema over the last few years.
The film was also almost shockingly political, essentially taking on capitalism itself as the film’s central antagonist. As a result, it’s fair to say that anyone’s expectations for this sequel would have been very high.
Thankfully, five years later everything is just as awesome as one would expect it to be. While this film may not be as smart or subversive as its predecessor, it’s still a hugely funny watch that features yet more gorgeous animation and brilliantly clever writing, all of which left me with an enormous smile on my face from beginning to end.
Written once again by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, but with Mike Mitchell (Trolls, Shrek Forever After) taking over directing duties, this sequel ran the risk of taxing audiences with what could potentially be a tired concept, considering how its spinoffs (The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie) failed to a degree hereby making the novelty seemingly worn off, but thanks to a smart script that probably requires multiple viewings to catch all of the jibs and jabs thrown about and the endlessly inventive nature of LEGO themselves, this film is a thoroughly entertaining film that appeals to kids and parents alike.
Starting right where the first film ended, the story follows Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), a rookie Master Builder from the city of Bricksburg, who acts out the day dreaming playtime of Finn (Jadon Sand), a teenager. Things have changed since the citizens defeated Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), as Finn’s little sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) has also joined in the fun and inserted her own Duplo blocks into his vision. Now five years later, the city of Bricksburg has transformed into a post-apocalyptic wasteland and renamed Apocalypseburg, as the Duplo invaders continue to invade periodically.
However despite everything Emmet stays upbeat, while his partner Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) broods darkly over their new status quo, and worries about how Emmet just refuses to grow up. As another random invasion begins, Emmet is left distraught when he witnesses General Mayhem (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), a general of the Systar System Army, abduct Lucy and his friends Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie), Metalbeard (voiced by Nick Offerman), and Benny The Astronaut (voiced by Charlie Day) on behalf of Queen Watvera Wa’Nabi (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) for some severely over-complicated reasons. Realizing that he has no other option but to rescue them, Emmet follows them across space, time and basements. Joining him along is Rex Dangervest (voiced by Chris Pratt) along the way, a raptor-training, space-archaeologist who loves adventure, and seems like the right person to guide Emmet towards maturity.
Although its opening act is a little overly similar to the first film, the film soon breaks out into a thrillingly entertaining adventure that’s just as enjoyable as it is surprisingly smart and deep, once again thinking outside the box as it relates the LEGO world to the real world. From heavy references to Mad Max to DC Comics and probably plenty of things that went right over my head, this sequel is an ever-shifting, ever-evolving mishmash of genre nostalgia and silliness that somehow avoids being excessive.
Whereas The LEGO Batman Movie felt like an overwhelming onslaught of sugar and color at times, this one is just patient enough to pause when needed, regroup, and then push on with its story. Once the film heads into space, the main story you thought was so simple has a few twists of its own, too. For example, Rex Dangerfest ends up being certainly not who you were expecting and Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi has more than a few layers to unravel. But while Watevra may be the main antagonist, the real conflict of the film is the internal struggle of hope vs. cynicism.
When it comes to sequels, it’s always hard to strike a balance between replicating everything that was great about the first film, while telling a new and exciting story, but it’s a balance that this film gets pretty much spot-on. As a bog-standard adventure, there are a lot of elements that are highly reminiscent of the events of the first film, and while the sequel occasionally struggles to bring about real character depth and intrigue as the first managed, there are still a lot of surprises in store with this film, thanks mostly to a unique and intelligent screenplay structure that brings a lot more gravitas and intrigue to the story than you may think at first glance.
The most immediately compelling part of the film is the relationship between Finn and Bianca. While gender plays a role in the relationship between Finn and his sister and the ways in which Bianca plays with her toys, the issue is really more about the age difference between the siblings. Bianca just wants to play, disregarding Finn’s more mature story-lines and infuriating her brother. The constant fighting between the two forces their mother (Maya Rudolph) to threaten to put all the toys in storage if they can’t get along. It’s an interesting premise, if less political than its predecessor’s critique of capitalism.
Several different types of animations are used this time around, giving the film a more dynamic scope. The new worlds Emmet and his friends discover present all kinds of bright, enjoyable visual possibilities, resulting in much of what you thought you knew about these characters changing rather radically. The attention to detail is amazing, down to the human fingerprints you see on Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi from certain angles. Basically, by the end of the film, everything about its predecessor feels small and simple by comparison.
Also, you’ll be happy to hear that the film is partially a musical with multiple large musical sequences, each one catchier than the last, one being about Batman and the other being one of funniest end credits song of all-time (from Beck and the Lonely Island).
However the most mind-blowing sequence has to be the final act of the film, where it takes a bolder and more direct approach to the blurry line between the real and LEGO worlds. While it may occasionally seem a little on-the-nose, it’s a unique and bold story that creates great depth in the film’s main adventure, all the while drawing you in with a thoroughly relatable account of a world of imagination.
My only source of rage towards the film can in the form of its under-usage of Will Arnett‘s Batman. While the 2014 film had Batman playing a second lead to Emmett, this time around he is pulled back towards more of a smaller supporting role. A failing in my opinion considering Arnett was so brilliant earlier he ended up serving his own solo film.
As expected, the star-studded cast adds a lot of fun to the mix, particularly the dual roles voiced by Chris Pratt, for whom Emmet continues to prove to be his most enduring big-screen character. Tiffany Haddish also ends up being quite a delightful entry into the series. While Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman and Stephanie Beatriz also voice their characters well. In smaller roles, Bruce Willis, Richard Ayoade, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Ike Barinholtz, Margot Robbie, Will Forte, Jason Mamoa and Ben Schwartz are also delightful. Maya Rudolph, Brooklynn Prince and Jadon Sand are good too. On the whole, ‘The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part’ is a really entertaining sequel that manages to be as bold, clever and funny as its groundbreaking predecessor.
Directed – Mike Mitchell
Rated – PG
Run Time – 106 minutes