THE LEGO MOVIE 2: A Sequel That Doesn’t Quite Click

0
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Lego characters General Mayhem, Emmet and Lucy join the The Lego Movie 2 choir as they performs 'Everything Is Awesome' from "The Lego Movie 2" for commuters at Kings Cross Station on February 05, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images For Warner Bros)

It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since The Lego Movie exploded into theaters, shocking the world with its cunning blend of humor, heart, and brick-by-brick visual style. But five years later, is everything still awesome in Bricksburg?

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Review

Times are bleak in The Lego Movie 2. We pick up immediately where the last film left off, with a baby sister joining the father/son playtime, and with her, DUPLO BLOCKS intended on destroying the very world that Emmet, Wyldstyle, Unikitty, Metal Beard, Benny the Spaceman, and Batman had literally just saved.

Cut to five years later, and things have somehow gotten worse. Bricksburg, now a Mad Maxian hellscape known as Apocalypseburg, is all that remains of the once thriving city. Indeed, the world and everyone in it have turned grim, gritty, and teenage angsty… everyone, that is, except Emmet.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) thinks things can go back to the way things were if they’d only just believe and build it, but Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) tells Emmet that the world is tough and Emmet is going to have to toughen up as well, or he’ll be left behind.

Shortly after that ominous ultimatum, adorable spaceships with adorable baby-voiced missiles shaped like bombs and hearts attack Apocalypseburg, and a masked villain named General Mayhem kidnaps Wyldstyle, Metal Beard, Batman, Unikitty, and Benny the Spaceman and absconds with them to the Sistar System.

So it’s up to Emmet to turn his house into a spaceship and travel where no one has gone before: up the stairs into uncharted space. Fortunately, he has help in the form of what any teenage boy would think is the coolest of the cool, REX DANGERVEST (also voiced by Chris Pratt), a galaxy-defending archeologist, cowboy, and raptor trainer. If it sounds like he’s everything Chris Pratt has done or was rumored to do post-Parks and Rec, you’re one step ahead of the movie.

Meanwhile, Wyldstyle watches in horror as her friends are brainwashed by the impressively animated, evil shapeshifting Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (a scene-stealing Tiffany Haddish), who intends to marry Batman to unite the lands.

Old and New

When the trailers for The Lego Movie first dropped, I was blown away. Despite years of CGI Lego short films, fully stop-motion Lego short films, and much-beloved Lego games, this felt like a breakthrough. There was a palpable sense of “why haven’t we done this before?”

But what no one could predict was the sense of childlike humor combined with adult understanding and introspection that would become the beating heart of the series. And surely, no one could expect that ending.

So the prospect of following all that up seemed daunting. And while The Lego Batman Movie laid some of those fears to rest, it seemed we could never get back to that lightning in a bottle that was the first Lego movie.

And those fears are somewhat justified. Despite LM1 writer/directors Phil LordChris Miller returning to pen the screenplay, there is something about this film that doesn’t fully connect.

Script Slips

The script isn’t as tight this time around. One-off jokes from the previous film (Abraham Lincoln on his hover chair or Shaquille O’Neal‘s delightful cameo) are dragged back into the spotlight, sucking up valuable screen time that could go to creating new jokes, evolving old ones, or developing our characters.

For some reason, Emmet brings his houseplant with him. A houseplant he has named Planty. But once Emmet meets Rex, Planty never returns. I know this is the kind of detail that most movie-goers will be totally fine with never discussing again, but to me, it’s a sign that this script isn’t as airtight as the previous entry.

Character Chaos

Emmet and Wyldstyle both have places to go and character to develop but their growth is marginal, and every other character you loved from the original is sidelined almost immediately.

Meanwhile, new additions to the story like a clumsy banana named Banarnar and a fastidious butler named Ice Cream Cone are complete duds. General Mayhem has a character reveal that lands with complete silence (at least from my audience), and one can’t help but feel that Warner Bros forced the production to include Justice League cameos.

Jackhammering Jokes

There is no joke this movie isn’t eager and willing to hammer into the ground. Emmet travels to “the Sistar System,” and the movie will not stop leaning over and asking if you “get it.” Emmet has nightmarish premonitions of Armamageddon and the movie is so pleased with this pun that it repeats it ad nauseam.

It would be as if the first film kept saying “See? Lord Business?! His cape and hat make a tie! Look! See? It’s a tie! A TIE, YOU GUYS!”

There’s a sense in this movie, that Lord & Miller felt pressure to recapture the tone of the original, a similar fate that befell Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and that I fear will consume whatever becomes of The Spider-Verse.

Whether it’s repeating the style of humor or straight up repeating the same jokes (which as we all know is always funny), the determination to recapture the magic is palpable. Nothing is as unfunny as someone trying to be funny and the results are laborious… at least for the first half.

The Second Half…

The Lego Movie was about an extra-ordinary person becoming an extraordinary hero. But that was only part of what made the movie so special and so unique. The big reveal that Emmet, Octan, the Kragle, Lord Business, the multiple universes, the eternal pit of nothingness, the real-world artifacts, everything(!) were all part of an elaborate imagination of a little boy grappling with his dad’s lameness presented a conflict. The coming together of the two and embracing the creativity that Lego has always represented gave the film the added twist that turned a delightful distraction into a masterpiece of animation.

It was a stroke of genius.

While the other Lego movies haven’t even dipped their toes into that territory, this movie has to. And the way The Lego Movie 2 manages to build upon the metaphor of the first film is inspired and welcome.

Queen Whatevra Wa’Nabi gets not one but two villainous songs about how she’s twisting the minds of our heroes to complete her “so not evil” plans. At first, this seems like the Lego movie embracing the idea that worked so well in the original; because this is all taking place in the mind of a child, they can be comedically simplistic with their portrayal of good and evil. But where this is going, what her true plans are, is so clever, I dare not spoil it.

And then there’s Rex Dangervest, who I would argue is the thematic center of this film. Despite his two-dimensional appearance as a character, he is the embodiment of everything this movie is about and everything this movie dares to criticize. It is a bold move, indeed, to look at a bunch of teenage boys and say, “The Dark Knight kind of sucks and you kind of suck for loving it as much as you do” but that’s exactly what it does, and I applaud them for saying it.

Do People Want More Lego?

That’s the million dollar question. The Lego Movie was a massive success earning $469 million worldwide, an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, and outrage at the Academy Awards for not nominating it for Best Animated Feature. The Lego Batman Movie was also a hit. However, The Lego Ninjago Movie was a dud. This weekend, The Lego Movie 2 premiered to a tepid $34 million dollars, less than half the original’s opening weekend.

Why?

Well, for one, the trailers weren’t very strong. They focused entirely on the humor and not the heart of the story. But in the trailer’s defense, there isn’t a great deal of story to tell. The stakes don’t feel very high, and the worlds we discover don’t feel half as fresh as finding out Batman is a character.

Last Word On The Lego Movie 2

I came down pretty hard on this sequel, and I feel guilty about that. I left the movie with a smile on my face, but that couldn’t save the movie from the first half of the film that offered minor chuckles at best.

Things aren’t all rotten in Bricksburg. The movie is just as visually stunning as the first film, and my heart leapt (and wallet ached) just thinking about all these Lego sets. There is joy to be found in this movie. The songs are fun (“Not Evil” being the standout), and the movie even gets a few digs in at the overlap licensed products have on everything Lego, including a scene with not one, but three different Wonder Womans (Wonder Women?).

This is a weaker film than The Lego Movie. It is a weaker film than The Lego Batman Movie. But it’s not a bad movie by any means. It tries so hard to please you, but in the end, we’re left with another Pirates of the Caribbean 2 situation. Visually stunning, wildly ambitious, but bloated and too dependent to stay afloat.

Main Image Credit:

 

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.