When The Lego Movie was released in 2014, my first reaction was to avoid it like the plague. It looked to me like a sure-fire hit with elementary school-aged children possessing the attention spans of dust mites and general fans of obnoxious humor. For some reason or another, I ended up catching it in the theater, and I was blown away. I’d expected a mediocre attempt to cash in on the Lego name, and what I saw was a thoughtful attempt to explain the creative power of a little plastic brick – and what that means.
I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that what could have been a dumb, loud, simple children’s movie managed to elevate itself far beyond the genre (something for which writers/directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord are beginning to become known). The plot wasn’t as basic as “good guy learns that he is special after all and defeats the evil bad man,” which is ostensibly what the first two-thirds of the film were building towards. Instead, (Spoilers for The Lego Movie) the entire thing was a young boy’s desire to dream big and create, and how that put him at odds with his distant father, who was far more inclined to treat these colorful building blocks as nothing more than the components of whatever image was on the box they came out of.
It was an uncommonly mature and insightful direction to take a film about Legos, of all things, but the filmmakers pulled it off with aplomb. Lord and Miller found a stunning balance between the zany antics of their characters and the emotional intentions of the ending, and came up with a movie that was appealing and entertaining for parents and children alike. And it certainly didn’t hurt that Everything is Awesome is a song so catchy that even I couldn’t help but enjoy it (still, nothing can top Batman’s magnum opus: Untitled Self Portrait, AKA Darkness! No Parents!).
After hearing that there would indeed be a sequel (with an oddly cumbersome title), I was equal parts excited and curious to see if Lord and Miller could pull off yet another impressive tightrope walk.
And somehow, they did just that.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part starts off almost immediately after the conclusion of the first, with the introduction of a nearly indestructible force of adorable, baby-talking enemies who, according to our protagonists, make everything decidedly not awesome. The film then tosses us five years into the future, where the once vibrant city of Bricksburg has been reduced to a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-inspired wasteland full of kit-bashed vehicles and battle-hardened ruffians. The only character who seems unchanged is, perhaps predictably, the ever-optimistic hero Emmet.
As the plot unfolds, it becomes reasonably obvious that The Second Part‘s “twist” ending will be about sibling relationships rather than parental ones. The transparency of this idea does rob the proceedings of some of the charm of the first film given that now the audience clearly knows that everything they’re seeing is in the imagination of children, but it comes nowhere close to quieting the deafening heartbeat at the story’s core. By the end, the message isn’t as simple as “siblings should get along.” It’s more about choosing to recognize that conflict is inevitable and that sometimes, even most of the time, not everything will be awesome – but there’s no reason not to try and make it as awesome as possible.
For as heavy as I’ve made a movie about anthropomorphic children’s toys sound, The Second Part doubles down on wacky humor and catchy pop tunes; almost to its detriment. It’s still a treat to watch Superman have a chat with Gandalf and Abraham Lincoln, but some of the shine has worn off of that particular comedic vein in the last five years. Similarly, no matter how hard it tries, the appropriately dubbed This Song is Gonna Get Stuck in Your Head just can’t quite drown out the infectious cheer of Everything is Awesome.
The cast, as usual, is delightful. Chris Pratt returns as Emmet, but also steals the show as newcomer Rex Dangervest, a delightfully meta conglomeration of all of the star’s high-profile roles since the infamous days of “fat Pratt.” Elizabeth Banks is as endearing as ever as Lucy “Wildstyle,” and Will Arnet continues to make a case for himself as the most enjoyable Batman ever to grace the screen. Additionally, I received an education in Tiffany Haddish’s vocal chops when she belted out two of the film’s most enjoyable and hysterical musical numbers.
I would also be remiss to spend this many words talking about The Lego Movie 2 without mentioning the brilliant animation. I was wildly impressed by the original’s stylistic choice to build all of the characters and environments out of (admittedly digital, but no less charming) Legos, and animate the bricks as if they were interacting for real. That same style is present here, and it still works exceptionally well. I’ll even admit that there were several sequences where I wasn’t positive whether or not I was looking at real objects or computer animation.
Five years after The Lego Movie won me over in a big way, The Second Part has come to prove that the first was no fluke. It may not be quite as inventive as its predecessor, and it may lean a little too hard into low hanging fruit humor, but there is no denying that the film is a success. It’s funny, action-packed, vibrant, colorful, emotional, and most of all, fun. Maybe not everything is awesome, but it comes surprisingly close.
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