3.5 out of 5 stars.
I think it’s safe to say that on its release in 2014, “The LEGO Movie” surprised everyone. That a film based on a toy line could not only be genuinely witty and fun, but also incredibly meaningful, is still a bit hard to believe. Naturally, a good portion of that element of surprise is gone from the film’s sequel, “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” but on top of still being very witty and fun, it has another important message to deliver—even if it does so rather heavy-handedly.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are back to write the sequel, while Mike Mitchell takes over directing duties. The film is set directly after the events of the first movie, when it is revealed to the audience through a live-action sequence that the residents of Bricksburg really are toys belonging to a collector (Will Ferrell). The man decides to let his son Finn play with his LEGOs, but in doing so also has to allow his younger sister Bianca to play too. Bianca starts bringing in her own toys (like the LEGO Duplo sets) and way of playing, including taking some of the toys from the basement to play in her own room, which is in conflict with what Finn wants to do.
The main difference between this film and its predecessor is that we know from the outset that a real world conflict is affecting our LEGO heroes. Five years pass, and over that time the conflict between the residents of Bricksburg and the Duplo invaders have turned the city into Apocalypseburg, a bleak, Mad Max-esque wasteland that has hardened all of its residents—all except for Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt), who remains his usual cheery self, constantly singing that “Everything is Awesome” and staying oblivious to everyone else’s misery, including that of his special friend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). But when Lucy, along with Batman (Will Arnett), Benny the spaceman (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie), and Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) are captured by an invader known as General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and taken to the far-away Systar System, Emmett sets out to rescue her.
“The Second Part” boasts the same stunning animation as its predecessor and two spin-offs (“The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”). The cleverness at how everything in this brick-based world movies and works is never-ending, but the film also does a good job integrating the live-action bits and displaying the difference in how the characters move in the real world versus the imaginary one. The story also expands the LEGO universe by whisking the characters off to colorful new worlds and introducing new characters, including the shape-shifting queen of the Systar System, Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) and Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), an extreme adventurer who teams up with Emmett and who seems to be a combination of Pratt’s entire filmography. All of the voice actors are great, but particularly Pratt and Banks, who manage even in animated form to have fantastic comedic timing.
The movie’s humor is fast-paced and far reaching. There are satirical music numbers and celebrity cameos. The opening pokes fun at dystopian movies, while the ending pokes fun at time travel. There’s a lot of Batman humor and just Batman in general, despite the fact that he got his own movie in the interim. The dialogue is just downright funny, although there are so many jokes and references that will clearly go over kids’ heads it makes me question just how much of a kids’ movie this is. A lot of the wordplay is more immediately evident this time around too as we know about the real world element (think “Systar System” = sister, and so on).
The story doesn’t have the punch the first movie did, and it occasionally lacks focus as it offers up a series of different messages, from getting along with others to staying true to yourself. But amidst a slew of peppy new songs there’s an update to the lyrics to the first film’s popular “Everything is Awesome” song at the end, in which the characters come to the conclusion that everything isn’t awesome, but that’s okay, that they’ll get through it anyway. That message is more than just character growth—it seems like an antidote made for our current troubled times, and it’s one of the small ways in which this franchise still manages to pleasantly surprise me.
Runtime: 106 minutes. Rated PG.