There aren’t too many films that can say they boast Gandalf the Grey, three Wonder Womans and a T-Pain musical number – but “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” finds a way to make it all work.
Before it even hit theaters, its predecessor, “The Lego Movie,” was a joke – a film based on inanimate, interlocking brick toys. But about a year later, there was genuine public outrage when it was not nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. Its heart and sharp wit stretched across generations, kick-starting an entire Lego cinematic universe and inspiring other seemingly cheap cash grabs such as “The Emoji Movie” and “Trolls.”
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” holds onto the original’s brilliant style of humor, expertly blending puns with meta Hollywood commentary, while presenting yet another heartbreaking and well-thought-out message about toxic masculinity and personal isolation. Apart from the sketchy logic and some heavy-handed foreshadowing, it is a fun popcorn movie that is enjoyable for all ages – albeit not quite as fresh as the first.
After two spinoffs and a handful of imitators, the Lego series brings back Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), picking up right where the first one left off. Invaders from Planet Duplo – a line of larger Legos for toddlers – have arrived in Bricksburg, throwing our characters into a post-apocalyptic desert and turning their newfound peaceful world on its head. It can come off a bit unsatisfying that our heroes’ valiant efforts in “The Lego Movie” ultimately amounted to nothing, but the clever writing amid all the chaos made it easy to overlook.
When aliens abduct his friends, Emmet is told he needs to grow up in order to rescue them, and the plain-faced hero’s mission to prove himself becomes the emotional crux of the story. The film essentially takes the stance that being positive and carefree does not always solve problems like it did in the first movie, and that the path to saving the day can be muddled by exterior influencers as you grow up. It is a unique stance to take today, but the story twists it in a way that makes the poignant morality of the film its most successful element.
Later on, Emmet meets Rex Dangervest (Pratt), an amalgamation of ’80s action heroes and Pratt’s recent roles in “Jurassic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He is the spitting image of what Emmet yearns to be: an idealistic version of himself that can fly spaceships and train raptors. Rex and Emmet have great chemistry – obviously helped by the fact that Pratt is literally playing off himself – but the lessons they teach each other about openly emoting to others are layered and account for most of the nuance in the film.
Rex’s screen time with Emmet is necessary for both of their character arcs, but it does come at the cost of less exposure to enjoyable, original supporting characters like bipolar princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), ’80s spaceman Benny (Charlie Day) and barbaric sea captain MetalBeard (Nick Offerman). Such characters are often reduced to catchphrases, and even Batman (Will Arnett) is neutered in service of newcomer Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Watevra Wa’Nabi becomes the standout supporting character, but Haddish’s unapologetically aggressive voice performance may be a distraction to those who are not fans of her previous work.
Despite its animation snub at the Oscars, “The Lego Movie” did earn acclaim for the earworm that is “Everything is AWESOME!!!” This time around, there are even more self-aware, overproduced pop songs that fit organically into the plot and its themes. But the plethora of musical numbers eats up screen time that could have been used to better acclimate the original side characters into the story.
The film is littered with cameos from superheroes, retired NBA All-Stars and certain Supreme Court justices, and also pokes fun at the modern-day studio system and the over-the-top sequel-itis ravaging the industry today. Any fans of the contemporary blockbuster culture will pick up on Easter eggs and jokes tailor-made for them, but the nostalgic respect shown for those properties is constantly evident.
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” is just as purposeful and witty as its title suggests, and Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s sharp screenplay reiterates the wholesome heart of the first film. This sequel has something to say, and although it may be slightly convoluted and bogged down by new characters and extravagant musical numbers, the relatable message and smart comedy keep the franchise moving strong five years after its unexpected start.