Review: The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

When The LEGO Movie came out in 2014 it was hailed as an animation game changer. A frenetic, free-wheeling, comedic surge of energy into the general sameness and cynicism of the animated children’s film landscape, The LEGO Movie seemed to overcome its feature-length advertisement nature to tell a story about creativity, free-play, and the importance of childhood. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is more of the same, leaning even more heavily into the afterschool-special sentiments, but doing a pretty good job of providing laughs and inventive animation.

If the The LEGO Movie 2 seems like it doesn’t live up to the highs of the first, I would suggest that your memory of the first is perhaps stronger than the actual film was. The LEGO Movie was never as anarchic nor as groundbreaking as its strongest proponents suggested. Trying to sell father-son bonding and a critique of conformity through a product always seemed the most cynical part of the film, but something that many seemed to oddly take at face value. For me the best parts of the film were the inventive animation and pop-culture mash-ups. For the sequel, thankfully, The LEGO Movie 2 maintains those elements and that it manages to be as enjoyable as it is is testament to the things that worked. Unfortunately, in attempting to recapture the magic of the first it leans a bit too heavily into the meta-commentary elements of the LEGO universe—that all the plot points are merely mirroring real-world elements in the boy Finn’s play-life—exposing the flimsiness of a conceit that worked in small doses, but here is stretched to breaking-point.

The film builds off the end of the first film, as the Duplo creations from the Systar System arrive and wreak havoc on the inhabitants of Bricksburg. In the five years since the last film, the repeated invasions of the Systar inhabitants have left Bricksburg devastated and transformed it into a Mad Max-like desolation called Apocalpyseburg. Lucy aka Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the other Master Builders have become cynical and beaten down by the onslaught, but Emmett (Chris Pratt) has maintained his sunny disposition.

When a special envoy from the Systar System, General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), abducts the Master Builders so that their shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) can marry Batman (Will Arnett) and unite their two worlds, only Emmett manages to avoid capture and sets off to rescue his friends in Systar system. Along the way he meets Rex Dangervest, space adventurer, raptor trainer, and archaeologist (clues to his real identity abound), who offers to help Emmett to rescue his friends and toughen up.

Essentially The LEGO Movie 2 is a musical, as a series of amusing songs, including Queen Watevra’s “Not Evil” and Batman duet, “Gotham City Guys” forward the plot significantly. The songs in The LEGO Movie 2 are pop-sugary confections that lend the film a ironic-musical appeal—the “Catchy Song,” a kind of “Everything is Awesome” 2.0, insists to the audience that “This song’s going to get stuck inside your head!” The film has the goofy, knowing appeal of a Lonely Island record (who along with Beck and Robyn, contribute to the final credits song).

As in the first film, the positive message of The LEGO Movie 2, in this case a vague appeal for getting along and the notion that people might not be what the initially seem, is lost in the frantic cramming-in of clever jokes. While the LEGO movies never quite rub me as wrong as say many Dreamworks or Illumination films in trying to appeal to adult humour, they are relentlessly focused on being clever and stuffed with allusions that go over the head of kids. It’s amusing, but it’s also exhausting. That said, new characters, including Ben Schwartz’s Banarnar (a sentient clumsy banana) and Richard Ayoade’s Ice Cream Cone envoy to the queen, are charming and funny, as is a repeating LEGO Bruce Willis cameo.

The biggest misstep in The LEGO Movie 2 is attempting to more closely align the events of the LEGO worlds with the events of Finn and his sister Bianca’s conflict and the threat of their mother (Maya Rudolph) taking away their LEGO. Worst is that the attempt to tie it so closely to the real world makes a late-film plot twist actually impossible to reconcile with the strict story alignment the film had established earlier. The writers would have been better off playing free and loose with the connections between the story world and real world.

The LEGO Movie 2 makes it clear that the first film was neither an unrepeatable miracle, nor was it as good as it may have seemed at the time. The LEGO films are solid, funny family entertainment, though they still are too indebted to the style and aesthetic of the whole corporate Hollywood lifestyle and vague positivity that they ostensibly dismantle. In The LEGO Movie 2, everything may not be awesome, but in the spirit of what they actually stand for, fun might be just enough.

6 out of 10

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019, United States)

Directed by Mike Mitchell; screenplay by Phil Lord and Chris Miller from a story by Lord, Miller, and Matthew Fogel, based on LEGO Construction Toys; starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Charlie Day, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Richard Ayoade, Ben Schwartz, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell.