It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since the release of The LEGO Movie. Coming out of nowhere to take audiences by storm, the film was an incredible synthesis of comedy, child-appropriate action, and the fun of the toys themselves, with an energy unique to itself and surprises that no one could see coming. Its runaway success assured the eventual arrival of the inevitable sequel I will review here, but between that film and now, we have also been delivered two other LEGO-related films, The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, with the former a proper-spinoff and the latter only tangentially connected by sharing a similar look and tone. The further adventures of Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the citizens of Bricksburg can now continue in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, but with those two other films in the gap since we saw them last, is there anything left with which to surprise us?
We pick up here (as trailers have shown) in the immediate aftermath of the first film: DUPLO blocks have come to wreak havoc in a struggle that takes place over literal years. This leaves all of Bricksburg in a permanent “heckscape”, so yes…everything is certainly not as awesome as it once was. Emmet, however, is undeterred, and he does everything he can to try to get Lucy to see things his way. His refusal to change and “grow up” causes her distress, but matters are complicated when a mysterious emissary, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives from the Systar System. Lucy and most all of our favorite characters are abducted by the traveler to go back to the faraway place and its ruler, Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmett sets out to make things right for all, but in route, he meets Rex Dangervest, a cosmos-exploring manly-man that hangs out with velociraptors and personifies the growth Lucy wants from him. Can Emmet save the day? We find out by film’s end.
Obviously, I tried to keep as many secrets as I can in my plot summary, and I commend the filmmakers for doing the same by keeping so many secrets away from trailers. Sure, the jokes that I had already heard in promotional footage didn’t land as well after having watched them numerous times already. Still, the film keeps many of its most important plot points under wraps, and that is refreshing after so many films today spoil the entire plot in the commercials, beat for beat. That sense of fun that has been in every LEGO film so far continues, and the pop-culture savviness of the original is here in spades as well.
One critique I do have is that, while the secrets do yield a great message that is relevant, needed, and somehow felt wholly undone by family films, that very crucial nature of surprise that permeated the original film and elevated it just cannot be replicated again in the same measure. No one watching then could know just how crazy the first film could get, but that leaves us with a sequel that really goes for weird and unexpected throughout, but it does so as we expect it to do exactly that. That inevitability of diminishing returns sapped some of the energy this film tried to have, but I can honestly say that the film never derails, as it continues everything began five years ago with its sense of fun amidst incredible computer animation. I found many of the lines tried too hard to be funny, yet the charm of the world, characters, and story kept me moving forward, undeterred.
With regard to character, Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks give Emmet and Lucy some actual character growth with some parallels to other themes at work in the movie; overall, it’s solid stuff for a kiddie film to achieve, and it makes some of the film’s other issues somewhat forgivable. The same can’t be said of Benny (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie), and Metalbeard (Nick Offerman); that’s no fault to the actors, who remind us why we liked them all to begin with. Still, with little focus on them, they are likely to remain background players used solely for laughs. It’s especially weird to acknowledge when Stephanie Beatriz and Tiffany Haddish are able to give their respective characters, General Mayhem and Watevra, interesting story arcs in just this one film, where those returning are left basically just as we met them way back. Regardless, it’s good to see familiar faces, as some characters from the first film return only for a blip and a mention.
Batman (Will Arnett) brings the goods, yet again, and while his own solo film could have left us tired of him by this go-round, he steals the spotlight in every one of his scenes. I love his take on the character, and I hope to hear him for years to come. It is kind of awkward to see the film lean so heavily into the Justice League, especially after the live-action film bombed so hard, but you know: it was always perceived to be a hit, so it’s understandable here. This is likely to be the closest we’ll get to a follow-up here, and the crowd-pleasers, Aquaman and Wonder Woman, feature here heavily.
One aspect of the film I didn’t expect was just how much music featured. Sure, in the original, there was Everything Is Awesome and Batman wallowed in darkness by way of song, but this go-round seemed to rely even more on songs. Some are scientifically engineered to never leave your brain, but most impressively, the film closes by way of Beck collaborating with Robyn and The Lonely Island. That type of genius deserves acknowledgment, and it plays over an incredibly creative credits sequence. While the comedy is more hit-or-miss this go around, the increased reliance on music is simultaneously strange and infectious.
Content-wise, I recall no bad language or inappropriate content whatsoever. It’s great to see any movie be appropriate for all audiences, and really, the only detriment I could see for some is the action and the style of the film just not being their cup of tea. However, in my mind, the frenzy of it all will be right in line with the expectations of most kids, and with the references and meta-humor, I reckon adults will have a great time as well watching alongside. The message of the film is especially grateful for kids of all ages, especially those who grow up alongside others they may not always see eye-to-eye with. The “message” of the film, which I leave unspoiled, made the entire thing greater than the sum of its parts to me, and it shows us, just as Christ’s Kingdom does, that we have far more that can be utilized in common than what we allow to divide us.
Overall, while the original film left us in need of a sequel to pick up the story from the ending, we have full resolution by this film’s end to the story began in 2014 and continued here. Box-office returns will likely guarantee additional entries to this series, but really, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part wraps up an arc and doesn’t need a sequel. That’s commendable to see. Even if we never got another, I think this film has enough going for it to deserve a recommendation, even as it inevitably fails to recapture the full measure of energy and wonder of the original. It’s not for lack of trying, as any who watch this are going to get a full measure of goofball crazy that is a fun time indeed.