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Everything's Still Awesome

Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt
Warner Brothers
 106 Minutes
Rated: PG
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks   
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

The idea of building an entire movie around anthropomorphic toys was once the exclusive province of the Disney/Pixar Toy Story films, so it came as a big shock to many people when Disney’s thunder was stolen by, of all things, Lego building blocks. The team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, working out of the Warner Animation Studios, came up with a storyline that combined a strong family message (albeit one that remained hidden until a terrific surprise reveal at the end) with rapid-fire pop culture references, and the result was the surprise success, The Lego Movie. Unfortunately, time and two spinoffs haven’t been kind to the Lego characters, but they can regain a lot, but not all of their mojo in an enjoyable albeit belated sequel, aptly titled The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.


The original Lego Movie had a clever twist ending that gave it added depth but couldn’t be duplicated (as most twist endings can’t). Instead of the film being a story of some odd planet or dimension in which people made of Lego blocks, not only exist but walk and talk, the film finally reveals that these characters are the personifications of a real-life father and son, who eventually overcome their differing ideas about the proper use of the Lego blocks and become a closer-knit family as a result. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part begins by acknowledging the world-within-a-world theme by showing the young boy and his sister, now five years later, and goes from there to explore how the Lego town of Bricksburg has changed in the interim.


For starters, the town isn’t called Bricksburg anymore; it’s Apocalypseburg, and, as the clip below shows, everyone but the perkily upbeat hero of the first movie, Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), isn’t really thrilled about life there. The town fell on hard times shortly after the end of The Lego Movie when aliens attacked the residents, and now the invaders are back. The alien commander, General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), takes Emmet’s girlfriend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and some others back to the Planet Sparkles, the aliens’ base. There, they meet the planet’s ruler, Queen Watervra Wa’nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who insists she is a nice person and wants to marry Batman to unite their two planets.


While this is going on, Emmet doesn’t abandon Lucy; instead, he takes off in a jerry-rigged spacecraft and is nearly killed in an asteroid storm before being rescued by the roguishly charming soldier of fortune Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt). Rex agrees to take Emmet to Planet Sparkles to save Lucy. As they travel, Rex helps train Emmet to be a hero, insisting that Emmet has to get tougher. When Emmet does arrive on Planet Sparkles, he discovers that most of his friends have fallen under the spell of the Queen. Fortunately, Rex has taught Emmet to channel some pretty impressive powers, if he can get in the right position to rescue Lucy.


The Lego franchise got seriously off track with two spinoffs within six months of each other in 2017. Both The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie lost sight of the central concept of the original film, namely that everything in Bricksburg was actually assembled using Lego blocks, and that assembly and re-assembly became a key part of the movie. Instead, the two spinoffs merely accepted the worlds as they were, namely, animated versions of some variant of the Earth on which everybody and everything simply looks weird. Fortunately, The Lego Movie 2 gets back to the franchise’s roots, with Emmet’s ability to put together structures on the fly (aided, of course by the wonders of CGI animation) a large part of the fun. In fact, this movie outdoes the original in terms of the ingenuity of the construction intricacy. For it seems that the aliens and their Planet Sparkle and, indeed, everything about them is made out of the larger Duplo blocks (a variant of Lego blocks intended for younger children). This, the entire film blends two different Lego construction styles.


But, if the innovative production design in The Lego Movie 2 is better than that of the original, other aspects of the film are not. The sequel has far too many action scenes that are played relatively straight. While children may well enjoy seeing lots of PG-rated mayhem, adults’ tolerance for this type of action wanes quickly. What adults will enjoy, of course, is the non-stop barrage of cultural jokes in the film. Batman becomes the target of most of the humor, ranging from digs and putdowns of every actor who has played the role to cutting the Caped Crusader’s massive ego down to size (the Queen overcomes his resistance by pretending to suck up to him). And once again, Will Arnett displays the best voice work in the movie, as he sounds much more authoritative in the role than even Christian Bale managed.


The credit for the constant subversive humor in The Lego Movie 2 goes to Lord and Miller, who once again wrote the screenplay (although they handed the directorial reins over to Mike Mitchell), as they did in the original Lego Movie. A veritable committee of screenwriters worked on the two spinoff movies, and the difference in writing quality between them and the current film is considerable. Lord and Miller have shown that they can strike the right balance between family film and meta-humor. Unfortunately, one thing that can’t do is turn back time and make people forget the twist that made the original movie so effective. Partly because the audience knows what’s coming (there are a number of scenes in the real world scattered throughout the movie, and it’s pretty hard not to pick up on some of the clues) and partly because the notion of a squabbling brother and sister just doesn’t resonate the way an eventual bonding between an emotionally distant father and his son does, The Lego Movie 2 lacks the emotional impact the first film had.


So, the audience is left with a movie that’s got a lot of good jokes, as it deconstructs virtually everything cinema and superhero related, but a lot of inane action as well. Director Mitchell does nothing to bring these fights and battles to life, and the end result is something that’s downright silly at times. That’s a formula that’s all too prevalent these days in animated films where adults can find plenty of chuckles but few outright laughs and a few cringe-worthy moments as well. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is reasonably well constructed, but it could still have used a bit more remodeling before being released on the market.  

In this clip, Chris Pratt still thinks everything is awesome in his new hometown of Apocalypseburg.

Read other reviews of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: 

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) on IMDb