Written by Aaron Radcliff:
It’s often hard to follow up on success. That’s just the way of the world. The first LEGO Movie ended up being a surprise financial and critical success, so much so that I still fly into a blind fury when I remember it being snubbed for a Best Animated Feature nomination (we all KNOW it would’ve beaten Big Hero 6). But before I go into another unhinged rant, we should take a moment and look at the latest film in what I’ve heard referred to as the LCU (LEGO Cinematic Universe): The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.
Five years have passed since the events of the first film and Bricksburg has fallen into a Mad Max-style wasteland known as Apocalypseburg. For all the residents, everything isn’t awesome. Except for the adorably stupid Emmet (Chris Pratt). When the masked General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) captures Emmet’s friends, including Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett), Emmet must travel to the far-off Systar System to rescue them from the clutches of Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmet soon teams up with the cooler, more awesome Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt) in order to save his friends and thwart his apocalyptic visions of the coming Ar-mom-ageddon.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return as writers, and what follows is 100 minutes of enjoyable, referential humor. Whenever one or both of these men are involved in writing or directing, it’s almost a guarantee that they will knock it out of the park with their unique brand of storytelling and humor that manages to convey universal themes and jokes that manage to be enjoyed by children and adults. If they’re involved in a project, you’d have to be insane to remove them from it (looking at you, Solo). In all seriousness, Lord and Miller continue their strive here and they don’t appear to be stopping any time soon.
With any sequel, you of course want something new. You could do everything the first movie did, but that alone isn’t enough to make it a good sequel. It requires growth, and we have that here. Rather than rehashing what had been done before, Lord and Miller decide to take on the idea of growth and accepting who you are. Totally ignoring the recent string of animated films which have hit on the same points, The LEGO Movie 2 manages to overcome its childlike look and convey its message in an easily digestible way for children, but that does serve as a detriment.
I’m not saying we need to go all Doctor Zhivago on kids, but there’s a definite lack of nuance this time around. What made the first film truly great was how well it handled its themes. It managed to be clear enough for children to understand, but it doesn’t shove it in their face or tell them what it should be. It treated children as young learners, allowing them to figure things out for themselves. Here, while still well-intentioned, it certainly feels like children, and even adults, aren’t trusted enough to derive their own interpretations. Instead, themes of “Be yourself,” “Don’t lose your inner child,” etc. are pounded over and over again that it eventually loses its meaning, no matter how noble.
There’s actually a lack of quite a bit of laughs this time around, too. The jokes come at a faster pace, giving a bit of a frantic feel to them. As a result, not all of them land. There’s still plenty of laughs to be found, and certainly enough for children to enjoy, but it’s hard to ignore the distinct lack. Several of the jokes also feel played out, especially with Batman and Emmet. We’ve seen what they bring to the table, but we keep getting the same ones over and over. Yes, Batman is brooding and egotistical. Yes, Emmet is a doofus. Bring me something more. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so critical of a children’s movie, but the children deserve it.
I will say, and I won’t spoil them, there are a few cameos that are hysterical that adults will absolutely love, so there’s that.
Don’t let my criticisms dissuade you. The LEGO Movie 2 is still a very good movie. It may be ham-fisted and not as funny this time around, but it’s still extremely enjoyable. The first movie was on such a whole other level that it would’ve been impossible to make a sequel as good or better. I’m sure this has been said multiple times already, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t accurate: With The LEGO Movie 2, everything is awesome, but just not as much.
Score: 7 out of 10
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures