As I headed into LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART, my mind drifted backwards. Five years and two (of three) great movies later, it is hard to recall how cynicism preceded THE LEGO MOVIE. An animated movie based on a toy line? Oh cool, the death of creativity and the triumph of late capitalism all wrapped up in a single product? What could be better?! Then it hit theaters and, well, we learned how darn wrong our cynicism was. Now here we are with LEGO MOVIE 2. Will it meet its predecessor’s ambitions and skills or will it end up being the monstrosity we all expected and feared the first installment would be?

The Lego Movie 2: Lucy and Emmet
Elizabeth as Lucy aka Wyldstyle throws Chris Pratt as Emmet a withering glance in THE LEGO MOVIE 2. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

The Idea Behind LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART

Finn’s (Jadon Sand) sister’s Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) inclusion in playing with Lego(s) brings Duplo blocks — the oversized Lego(s) for tiny folks — into the equation. Down in Bricksburg, a world where Lego beings live, this has massive repercussions. Duplo creatures were proven invulnerable and ravenous. Before long, Bricksburg was reduced to rubble and renamed Apocalypseburg. The one “awesome” place to live now looks like a PLANET OF THE APES meets MAD MAX hellscape where everyone, save Emmet (Chris Pratt), has been hardened by the experience.

Wyldstyle — now nearly exclusively called Lucy — finds Emmet’s refusal to go dark and “grown up” disappointing. How can she take him seriously when he won’t get serious? Before that question can be explored more in full, however, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives, firing adorable explosive hearts and stars and demanding Apocalypseburg turn over its leader. Unable to decide who that is, Mayhem snatches Batman (Will Arnett), Benny the space ship obsessive (Charlie Day), Uni/Ultrakitty (Alison Brie), MetalBeard the Pirate Head (Nick Offerman), and Lucy. She takes off for the galaxy beyond the door portal.

Emmet, unable to find support amongst the remaining denizens of Apocalypseburg, builds a spaceship of his own and takes off after them. After nearly dying, he meets and teams up with Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) and the two make their way to the Systar (say it out loud) galaxy to stop the brainwashing of their friends. Moreover, they seek to derail the matrimonial ceremony between Batman and Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), which seems poised to bring about Armomageddon (again, say it out loud). But is everything as it appears?

The Lego Movie 2: General Mayhem
General Mayhem, as voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, take aims at the viewer in a moment from THE LEGO MOVIE 2. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

Writing LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART

As you might guess from above, this animated feature has a LOT of plot. I did not even touch the real world meta aspects or the time travel/ FIGHT CLUB reminiscent twists. And, at times, you can definitely feel the weight of all that plot. Interestingly, however, the time the movie feels most sluggish proves to be early on when the plot stands at its least complex. Somehow, as the script from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller grows in complexity, it also grows in deftness. It moves quicker, plays smarter, and just generally seems more engaged in its own story.

The screenplay also spends more on time in “our” world than the previous film did, which saved that revelation for the last five minutes or so. It integrates nicely though, disrupting the action without disrupting the pacing or emotions of the moment. Finally, Miller and Lord kept the screenplay funny. Again, without the surprise of the news, there is not the same delight of discovery. However, the duo combat this by digging deeper. The meta humor is still there but since we know the characters better, they can use more character-based humor as well. Additionally, they are not afraid to tinge some of the humor with a taste of the bittersweet which fits one of the major themes of the film.

The Lego Movie 2: Batman
Will Arnett’s Batman shows off his formal wear in a scene from THE LEGO MOVIE 2. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

Developing the Themes

Speaking of themes, here we are.

LEGO MOVIE 2 is something like the HARRY POTTER novels and films in that it can largely be enjoyed by the same age group that enjoyed the first installment but it has also aged up along with those who saw the movie in theatres when it was first released. This time out, it wrestles with gender binaries, sibling rivalry, and what is required to “grow up” today. Without spoiling things, LEGO MOVIE 2 comes down fully on the good guys’ side, arguing for loosening expectations that keep the gender dichotomy so strict.

It highlights something that largely went unnoticed in the first film, Finn’s easy mix of “boy” and “girl” identified characters without angst by showing us how his Lego world starts to change when he starts to grow. We this not just via the remaking of Bricksburg as more intense and dangerous but also, for instance, Unikitty’s transition to being Ultrakitty — her larger, angry, less pink incarnation — far more.

It also tackles the death of creativity and play we often associate with — and much demand of — adolescents. As long as there have been adults and kids, adults have been demanding kids “grow up” and abandon childish things. LEGO MOVIE 2 shows what the cost of that can be. It shows how “growing up” can often manifest itself in some downright destructive unpleasant behaviors that might not be so necessary if we did not link the death of play with being an adult quite so tightly.

The Lego Movie 2: The Queen
Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, voiced by Tiffany Haddish, reassures you she is not evil in a scene from THE LEGO MOVIE 2. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

Casting The Leads of LEGO MOVIE 2

Elizabeth Banks does well with Lucy’s larger palette of emotions in this film. Her “brooding” voice is just an excellent gag that benefits from how straight she plays it. The film still can’t see through to making her an equal of Emmet but it does give her more to do and tries to at least demonstrate how smart she is. Speaking of Emmet, Pratt continues to nail the character’s big-hearted sweetness and undeniable dedication to his friends, Lucy in particular. However, his best work comes as a Rex where he does a kind of Kurt Russell impersonation that serves a double purpose that I will not spoil beyond saying Russell and Pratt have worked together.

The Lego Movie 2: The DC characters
Channing Tatum as Superman in foreground glitters, sings, and dances. Jonah Hill, left, as Green Lantern, and Ike Barinholtz, right, as Lex Luthor join in. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

Casting the Rest of the Callsheet

Tiffany Haddish as the Queen proves she has a real set of pipes which is always a fun discovery. She also demonstrates that she can absolutely modulate her approach to comedy — which she also did in last year’s THE OATH. Hopefully, Hollywood will notice and start to give her a wider range of roles to choose from. Maybe it’s time to get her that script, eh, Paul Thomas Anderson? I had to look it up, but I should have known Richard Ayoade was the Queen’s closest advisor Ice Cream Cone. He’s a deadpan delight.

Stephanie Beatriz’s work makes nice use of our most common association with her — the tough Diaz on BROOKLYN 99 — and her actual speaking voice, which is considerably higher and sunnier than you might guess. Given General Mayhem’s duality, the fit is great. Will Arnett remains awesome as Batman but I really want to nod to Channing Tatum as Superman and his contemptuous relationship with Jonah Hill’s Green Lantern.

It only gets like two moments but they are both wonderfully petty. For all the returning players — Brie, Offerman, Day, Ferrell as only a voice this time — it’s similar to bringing the goods. I especially enjoyed Day’s expansion of Benny who gains no depth but gets funnier with each mention of spaceships.

The Lego Movie 2: Ice Cream Cone
Richard Ayoade as Ice Cream Cone serves the queen in THE LEGO MOVIE 2. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

Animating LEGO MOVIE 2

The shock of making Lego(s) look so good in animation is gone. S0 the movie wisely does not spend time highlighting it. There are fewer moments of “wow, they did that waterfall ALL in Lego(s),” but more fluid storytelling. Overall, I think it is a worthwhile tradeoff. Additionally, it makes the end credits, already a delight thanks to a Lonely Island song about the credits, even better. They lean into the Lego brick of it all by highlighting moments from the movie with barely animated Lego models. The juxtaposition to the film’s style somehow makes both more fun and more impressive. Please, please, please, watch the credits until the end of the Lonely Island song. It’s just so much fun.

The Lego Movie 2: Emmet, Rex, and Raptor
Chris Pratt as Emmet, Christ Pratt as Rex Dangervest, and a Raptor have a chat in a scene from THE LEGO MOVIE 2. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

That’s a Wrap!

So there it is. LEGO MOVIE 2 is not a surprising breath of fresh air as its predecessor. Yes, it is still great and you should definitely see it.

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