What is Ruth Bader Ginsburg doing in a Lego movie? Are the Lego characters actually sentient beings? And how many times can I use the word build in this review?
I am skeptical about animated movie sequels. I just can’t remember seeing one that quite matched its predecessor. Incredibles 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Despicable Me 2, and Cars 2 are all movies of varying quality, but none of them are as good as the original. There’s a reason for this – animated movies designed for kids can’t build off their predecessors to explore deeper and more complex themes, the essence of great sequels. Most animated sequels end up doing the same thing over again (Incredibles 2) or they do someone totally different, only less cool (Cars 2).
So where does The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part fall on this spectrum? How does it compare to the original, which remains to this day one of my all-time favorite animated movies? Does it, like so many animated sequels, end up a serviceable but unspectacular reflection of a much better original or does it build a lego-cy of its own?
The Lego Movie 2 begins where the first one left off, with Duplo figures from the Si-star system invading Bricksburgh, where Emmet and company just defeated Lord Business. The meeting goes awry, the Duplo figures start wrecking things, and the story jumps forward 5 years. Now, the Duplo figures have destroyed everything that looked nice, and our Lego universe has basically turned into a Mad-max dystopia. Emmet (Chris Pratt), who is still his optimistic, “everything is awesome” self, receives a vision that at 5:15 the Mamageddon will begin and their entire universe will collapse into the bin of sto-rage. He tells this to his special best friend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who is constantly brooding and insistent that Emmet needs to toughen up in this dark new world. Then, a new alien shows up and abducts Lucy, Batman, Unikitty, Benny, and Metalbeard. Emmet, after failing to rally the other minifigures to his side, sets out after them, alone.
The captives are taken to the Si-star system, where they meet Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who plans to brainwash them and then marry Batman. Emmet, in pursuit of his friends, meets Rex Dangervest, also voiced by Chris Pratt, a tough guy who’s basically an amalgamation of every role Chris Pratt has ever done. Emmet, who is now convinced of his need to toughen up, teams up with Rex, and they go so save their friends from Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi.
Right off the bat, The Lego Movie 2 is a children’s movie, more so than the original. The story is simpler, there are more bright colors, there’s more music, the rules of the universe is more fluid, you get the point. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in taking this approach the movie puts a definite ceiling on how high it can build. To try to appeal to the older audience, people like me who grew up playing with Legos and adored the original movie, this installment relies heavily on meta-humor, 4th wall breaks, and cameos, particularly to things only older people will get. That might really work for some people, but it didn’t for me, and I thought this wasn’t as funny as the first movie.
In terms of what I loved, the Lego universe is still awesome. Emmet is a great protagonist, even though he is portrayed more as naive than incompetent this time around. Lucy is still a great foil to him, and their relationship is one of the movie’s best parts. I liked Rex, and I really liked General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz). The other characters were basically the same as they were in the first installment, only a little less fresh, but they still made for some good laughs and served the plot well.
Thematically, this movie isn’t very subtle (again, it’s a kid’s movie), but its theme was a nice spin-off on the first movie: not everything is going to be awesome, but we need to work together, understand one another, and be ourselves. As someone who played a lot of Legos growing up, and had a little sister, it hits home. There’s an awesome twist at the end I thought was really clever, and it actually changed my outlook on this movie from whatever to pretty good.
I have only two major gripes with the movie. The first is that the rules of the Lego-verse, and how the Lego characters interact with the real world, is less defined this go around. In the first movie, the Lego world is simply the playground of real humans. This time the Lego world is more of a reflection running parallel to what’s happening in the real world, with Emmet learning the same lessons and undergoing the same conflicts as the brother and sister are in the real world. There are some continuity problems that come out of this, but this is a kid’s movie, and I’m not going to hold it to a super strict standard.
My other problem was that during the movie it begins to make a point about adolescents growing up and losing their imagination as they become engrossed in technology. I have no problem with this message, but the movie never develops it. It could’ve made for a valid argument, but since the movie doesn’t try to build it into a major point, it probably should’ve been left in the storage bin.
In conclusion, The Lego Movie 2 is a fun movie with heart, humor, and a cool twist, but it’s a movie for children, and that limits it. There are a lot of animated movies I’ve enjoyed less, but there’s also animated movies that are far superior, including its predecessor. If you’re taking kids to the movies, or you’ve enjoyed the Lego-verse thus far, open the box on this set. Otherwise, there’s no need for you to see this movie right now.
Final Score: 7/10