Let's Build It Again
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is directed by Mike Mitchell and features the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, and Will Ferrell, all of whom reprise their roles from the previous film. Newcomers to the voice cast include Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, and Maya Rudolph.
The Lego Movie was one of the biggest surprises of the year 2014, crushing all sorts of intense skepticism with terrific humor and a feel-good story that spoke perfectly to what people of all ages use Legos for and how Legos are designed to encourage intense creativity. The success of the movie encouraged two spinoffs in 2017: The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie. However, The Lego Movie's ending scene had a bunch of cute-faced aliens coming down into the Lego world and announcing their plans to take over, so a direct sequel should have been expected right then and there. Five years later, Mike Mitchell, the guy whose animation credits include the likes of Trolls and Shrek Forever After, presents us The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Without any further delay, let me get it out there that The Lego Movie 2 is another sequel that belongs in the elongated lineup of "it's good, but not as good as the original" sequels.
We can write book after book about the nature of sequels and how they should compare to their predecessors. Sequels that are better than their predecessor are pretty rare things, because they not only overcome the challenge of trying something new, they also transcend whatever lofty expectations were set by the previous film. Now, I've brought this sequel talk up in too many of my other sequel reviews, so if you've been following this blog for a decent amount of time, then right now it sounds like me going through the same schpeel over and over again. The only reason I bring it up again here is because the normal issues with sequels don't fully apply to The Lego Movie 2. Don't get me wrong: it's a perfectly charming movie with a fun story and plenty of funny scenes. The main issue at work here, however, is that the movie is a sign that, right now, The Lego Movie franchise might be too much of a good thing.
Starting off at the very moment the last movie ended, The Lego Movie 2 begins with the Duplo brick invaders forcing the citizens of Bricksburg to abandon anything and everything fun and colorful. Five years later, Bricksburg has turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland known as Apocalypseburg, where everyone but Emmett has stone faces. Emmett has visions of an "Our-Mom-Ageddon", in which he sees Apocalypseburg destroyed and everyone, including Lucy, falling into a black abyss. One day, General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), arrives in Apocalypseburg and kidnaps Lucy, Batman, Benny, Metalbeard, and Unikitty. They are taken to the Systar system, where the Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) intends on having them present at a wedding ceremony: something that surely means bad news. Meanwhile, Emmett is in pursuit. Along the way, he meets the smooth-talking space adventurer, Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt), who tells Emmett that the Systar system is up to no good, and that they must rescue his friends before Queen Wa'Nabi can go through with her planned wedding ceremony.
At the time of this review, The Lego Movie 2 has just completed its first weekend at the box office, and word is that the movie does not look to be living up to expectations. I would probably disagree if I was solely going off of how many people were in the theater I went to (which included several obnoxious kids that made me want to yell), but understanding why The Lego Movie 2 is likely to not be any sort of major box office success is to be understanding of how diminishing returns started to come into play with The Lego Ninjago Movie: we were getting so many Lego movies in such a short time period, that we started to get a little tired of it. It's a lot like the problem currently hampering Star Wars: so many movies coming out at once that people stopped caring. So in terms of The Lego Movie 2, it's very much like doing a fun activity for the second time: still fun, but not as much fun.
- Chris Pratt is doing double voice work this time around, providing the lines for newcomer Rex Dangervest, on top of reprising his voice role for Emmett. The entire time, Pratt's voice is oozing with lovable charm, whether its Emmett sounding and acting a lot like Spongebob (old Spongebob, mind you), or Rex looking and acting like a high school jock. There's such a noticeable enthusiasm in his voice that it really is the best voice performance in the film by far.
- The story also capitalizes on its high potential, this time around delivering a message about becoming more mature and how a person balances that with keeping their true personality intact. What is first depicted as a war between sophisticated, mature Legos and cutesy, girly Legos evolves into something a little deeper, something that gives us a nice extension of the inner family relationship that the first movie was secretly about. Thematic content aside, the story is just plain fun. What more could you ask for with a story about battling Legos?
- So what is it exactly that keeps The Lego Movie 2 from being as good as the first one? For starters, there aren't a whole lot of laugh-out-loud, hilarious jokes. More so, the jokes range from good to fairly decent, which, again, is like something you're doing for the second time around, like eating leftovers from a delicious dinner or going on a roller coaster ride for the second time in as many days. That's my way of saying that the humor takes a tad bit of a step back, though everything is still pretty darn silly. Other things that keep The Lego Movie 2 from being as good are actually things that aren't specifically in the movie. For one, it's hard to call this movie "fresh": The Lego Ninjago Movie came out less than two years ago, and it's not like the world isn't at least a little acclimated with the style and tone of these movies. I think if Warner Bros. has any desire to recapture the box office magic of the first film, it might have been better for them to push this film off for at least another year or two. That way, Lego fatigue could wear off. Finally, the marketing for this movie just wasn't all that crazy, like Warner Bros. didn't have the same passion for this Lego installment as they did for the earlier ones. With far fewer ads and nowhere near enough people convincing you to go see this movie, this Lego movie has had quite the challenge to generate legitimate excitement. Basically, there's a whole bunch of different variables at work here, some of which have nothing to do with what's actually in the movie.
But regardless of what has happened outside of the movie, sometimes, what is in the movie is the only thing that truly counts. Inside The Lego Movie 2 is a a fun, engaging story, a strong message that lives up to the message(s) of the first film, and more infectious charm from the voice cast, particularly Chris Pratt. People of all ages will get a kick out of this installment to The Lego Movie, and for something that is meant to be animated family-friendly entertainment, that goes a long way. No matter what kind of box office success this film will end up having when all is said and done, I think it's safe to say that the world is a bit Lego-ed out right now, and that it may be time to put this franchise on pause for a little while. There are no limits to what you can do playing with Legos and Duplos and whatever other building blocks you can play with. There are however, limits to how many times you can keep watching the same kind of movie over and over before you want to stop.
Recommend? Yes, especially if you loved all the previous Lego movies (or at least just the first Lego movie)
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: