Ken Jones, Chief Film Critic
Coming five years after the wildly successful original, Warner Bros has released The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Nearly everyone is back from the first film in some capacity. The prolific duo of Chris Lord and Phil Miller, who wrote and directed the first film, remain as screenwriters but have handed off the directorial reins to Mike Mitchell.
The story picks up immediately at the end of the first movie with the arrival of the Duplo… aliens/creatures/figures. Things did not go well, and the film quickly jumps ahead five years where Bricksburg has been turned into Apocalypseburg, a dystopian world with clear inspirations from Planet of the Apes and Mad Max. Despite these conditions, Emmett (Chris Pratt) remains his cheerful self. A new invasion, however, results in Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) being kidnapped and taken to Systar System by General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz). They are taken to Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, the shapeshifting ruler of the Systar System. Believing that his friends are in mortal danger and propelled by a vision of Our-Mom-Ageddon, Emmett journeys into the unknown to try and rescue his friends.
Despite being well-received five years ago, one of the main criticisms of the first film was that it was sensory overload; too much happening on screen too fast, too loud, and with too many dazzling colors because of the short attention spans of the target audience, children. Not much has changed this time around in that department, so people who did view that as a problem can expect more of the same. I can see some Lego fatigue hitting some people, but for me the jokes and referential humor was flying at a fast-enough pace that kept me laughing consistently throughout the movie.
The movie throws a lot at you, but it’s not all just to dazzle and numb your mind. Lord and Miller have a great pop culture palette to draw from, and it lends itself perfectly to an animated world that is based on Legos, which make toys based on all kinds of different forms of entertainment. I laughed heartily and consistently throughout the movie as references to Batman’s movie history, Radiohead, Die Hard, Back to the Future, Beetlejuice, Skynet, The Matrix, and a slew of other things. I laughed the hardest at Lego Gary Payton and Lego Sheryl Swoopes for the obscure reference of NBA and WNBA Legos being included in the movie.
The best form of this comes in the form of Rex Dangervest, a character that pops up while Emmett is traveling to the Systar System and decides to help him. Rex is an amalgam of other characters that Chris Pratt has played across several other movies. Rex is also voiced by Pratt and sounds like him reprising his Burt Macklin alter-ego in Parks & Rec mixed with a Kurt Russell impression. They even throw in Lego raptors.
Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi is a great addition to the cast, a fun play on words. Haddish gets a great musical number too, “Gotham City Guys.” In fact, there are a lot of enjoyable pop songs in this movie. “Everything’s Not Awesome” is an obvious riff on the earworm of a song from the last movie. Speaking of earworms, “Catchy Song” is that and all about earworm songs (“This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head!”). There’s also “Super Cool” playing over the credits that features Beck, Robyn, and the Lonely Island.
With phrases like Systar System and Our-Mom-Ageddon, it’s pretty obvious where things are going in the overall storyline. The Lego world we see on screen, of course, is a representation of the imaginary world inside of the heads of the people playing with them. In The Lego Movie, that was Finn and his dad (portrayed by Will Ferrell). This time around, it’s Finn and his little sister, which was introduced with the Duplo invasion at the end of the first movie. The Lego Movie used the age-old dichotomy of how Legos are used as toys: the structured (build what is on the box) and the unstructured (screw the box, build what you see in your mind). With The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, it’s more about learning to play well with others and also holding onto the inner child when adolescence and adulthood are beckoning. How they play out on screen are bit messier than the first time around, but these are still good lessons for kids to learn through these movies.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part sticks to the blueprint of the original, following much of the formula that made it so successful and building upon the foundation laid. It is still bursting with energy and creativity. Also, knowing how things work with the connection between the Lego World and the real world, it’s fairly easy to follow the plot and have an idea of what is coming without being entirely predictable. Anyone with Lego fatigue could be turned off by it, but it’s a fun expansion of the universe that provides plenty of laughter.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars