Familiar plotting prevents The Lego Movie 2 from reaching the creative heights of its predecessor, however, the introduction of welcome new characters and razor-sharp meta humor make this all-out war between childhood and adulthood a more than worthy follow up.
In 2014, seemingly out of nowhere, The Lego Movie stormed onto the scene and proved with its surprise success that it could be just as viable of a brand as Disney or Dreamworks animation. However, lackluster reception from the previous entry, Lego Ninjago, combined with a downward trend at the box office has quickly put the viability of this colorful franchise into question. It’s clear from The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part that returning writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are not giving up on this franchise, as they have assembled a sequel every bit the vibrantly fun shot in the arm that the original was now with the clever addition of children’s “Duplo” toys as the villains.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part literally jumps right into the action as we witness the world of Bricksburg collapse before the eyes of our returning heroes Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett). The city has been reduced to a Mad Max-inspired apocalyptic wasteland as the threat of the adorable yet formidable Duplo has created an atmosphere of war and tension. All of the residents of the town have adopted a hardened attitude to cope with these troubled times, save for the eternal optimist Emmet, who remains as upbeat as ever much to the chagrin of his friends.
In the midst of battle, Emmet’s friends are captured and taken to the home of the Duplo alien leader, Queen Watevera Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), a shapeshifting being who (hilariously) insists on only having good intentions in uniting the Lego and Duplo toys. Meanwhile, in his frustration at failing to save his friend, Emmet sets out on a mission to prove to his friends that he isn’t the helpless “nice guy” that everyone thinks he is. In the process, Emmet encounters Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), an intergalactic bounty hunter who happens to embody all of the more mature traits Emmet wishes he possessed. The two work together to thwart the Duplo’s plans before it’s too late.
The series’ signature self-aware meta-humor continues to be utilized as we are once again presented with a bevy of cameos quipping about the entertainment property they are from. While this provides some great laughs (as many of the cameos they use manage to somehow still be surprising) this is thankfully not overdone as the series is aware that this novelty alone won’t cut it anymore.
The Lego Movie 2’s self-referential approach to comedy spawns its biggest success in the form of the Rex Dangervest character, as he serves as a clever amalgamation of Chris Pratt’s most identifiable action roles. Many of the film’s best gags come from Emmet and Rex playing off of each other’s personality differences, as it also deftly parallels the evolution of roles Pratt has become most associated with.
Aside from comic relief, the character of Rex helps to drive home the film’s primary theme of the perils that can come with wanting to change aspects of your personality as you mature. The presence of the innocently adorable Duplo juxtaposed with their fearsome reputation from the other Lego characters also works in tandem to build upon the film’s central themes. This all culminates in a poignant animated feature as it serves as a smart look at the internal war children often experience as they are reluctant to cling to childhood as they approach adulthood.
It’s worth noting that the already frenetic pacing of the other Lego films is amped up considerably with this entry. Conceptually the pacing is smart as it helps to mirror the thought process of a child and reminds the audience that what we are witnessing is a metaphor of a child’s imaginative games. However, The Lego Movie 2’s insistence on never slowing things down to take a breath can be almost tiring as at times it felt as though there were too many events and gags crammed into a scene. The breakneck pacing ironically causes the film to drag at times.
The plotting as a whole is also a bit too familiar to the first film. In essence, the story once again builds towards our heroes hitting a wall, having a fourth-wall breaking reveal, and then a quick wrap up. While the reveal of what is causing all the action in the story felt incredibly fresh in the first Lego Movie, this time the film might have benefitted from cutting this as it came off more like a distraction instead.
Plotting and pacing issues aside, The Lego Movie 2 is pure candy-colored fun from start to finish. Between the introduction of fantastic new characters as well as the incorporation of even more infectiously clever songs, The Lego Movie 2 has set the bar high for the animated features that are to follow this year.