The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
The toy-to-film franchise returns, but buries a fantastic message in all-too familiar packaging.
March 21, 2019
It's a risky and even cheeky move, packaging a film with a song that could be used to describe it. Thankfully, in the case of 2014's The Lego Movie and its instant earworm track, everything was indeed awesome. The animated flick's long-awaited sequel offers another self-assessment in closing credits tune 'Super Cool', however the description doesn't fit this time around. Nor do the words unbelievable, outrageous, amazing, phenomenal, fantastic and incredible, further praise sung by Beck, the Lonely Island and Robyn in the catchy and amusing song.
Instead, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is fine, standard, okay and average. Of course, those words don't have the same ring to them, even if they were set to a thumping beat. The Lego Movie left its successors with big shoes to fill — or big bricks to emulate, to be more accurate — and this direct follow-up does so in an entertaining enough but never especially inventive or enthralling fashion. Call it a case of trying to build the same thing with different pieces. Call it constructing a masterpiece and then falling short with the next attempt. Call it a case of sticking too closely to the instructions again and again. Whichever one you choose, they all fit like rectangular plastic pieces stacked neatly on top of each other.
You could also call it a case of following Emmet Brickowski's (Chris Pratt) lead, with the mini-figure's fondness for routine already well established in the first movie. He's so comfortable doing the same thing day in, day out that he's even happy to keep doing so in the new dystopian version of his hometown, Bricksburg. He knows that much has changed since alien invaders made from bigger blocks descended from the heavens. His brooding best friend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) also reminds him all the time. But it isn't until General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives, bearing an invite from the Systar system's Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) and sweeping Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Benny (Charlie Day), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) and Unikitty (Alison Brie) away, that Emmet abandons his blissful monotony and springs into action.
Viewers of the initial flick, The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie will remember two important aspects of the Lego Movie Universe. Firstly, mile-a-minute jokes and pop culture references are as much a part of the franchise as multicoloured bricks. Secondly, more often than not, the series' animated tales tie into a real-world scenario. While original directors Chris Lord and Phil Miller have handed over the reigns to Trolls filmmaker Mike Mitchell, their humour still bounces through in the movie's fast-paced script. And while The Lego Movie's big twist — that the whole story stemmed from kids simply playing with the titular toys — is old news now, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part builds upon this idea. Once again, the film spends time with now-teenager Finn (Jadon Sand), who's still far from pleased that his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) likes Lego as well.
Cue The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part's troubles. Lightning rarely strikes twice, after all. The film serves up enough funny gags to keep audiences chuckling, throws in more than a few ace cameos and has the same infectious, anarchic vibe, but it was never going to feel as fresh. It also benefits from a fantastic overall message, but doesn't give it enough emphasis until late in the show. After pondering the divide between rules and creativity in the first picture, the franchise now contemplates collaboration, sharing and the gendering applied to playthings, roles and fandom. That's both smart and relevant, yet here feels underdone.
Basically, anything new comes second to everything that's been done before, resulting in the most superfluous kind of sequel. This follow-up is happier rehashing its predecessor's glory days than channelling the ingenuity that made the original so charming. Of course, if The Lego Movie hadn't been such a vibrant, witty delight, then The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part wouldn't feel so familiar. An adequate addition to the series, it still contains plenty to distinguish it from other all-ages animated fare — including an eye-catching and distinctive animation style, enjoyable skewering of Pratt's many non-Lego characters, and Noel Fielding as a sparkly Twilight-esque vampire. But, five years on, viewers are now in the same situation as Lucy: ready to embrace a challenge, rather than falling back on comfortable old habits.