It has to be a difficult task to create a sequel to a story like ‘The Lego Movie.’ The film had such a self-referential “meta” ending, one that essentially said to the audience, “these characters were never real, they were just figments of other people’s imaginations.” Yet here we are, with ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,’ and you know what? Writers/producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller embraced the challenge, hugged the weird, caressed the meta, and created yet another brick-centric film that is highly enjoyable and just plain old-fashioned fun.
Picking up immediately where the first film left off, the fearsome and bulky Duplos have invaded Bricksburg, and our familiar characters are under duress. Yes, the gang’s all back: lovable and goofy Emmett (Chris Pratt), total boss Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), blissfully self-centered Batman (Will Arnett), old-school Lego stalwart Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), alternating-sweet-and-scary Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), Frankenstein-esque pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and even Lord Business (Will Ferrell) makes a quick appearance before “going golfing” and getting the heck out of the way.
What served as the “big reveal” at the end of the first film – that the Lego characters were all figments of the imaginations of a father and son who needed to learn that playing together, not just owning and displaying the sets, was the real joy of having Legos – is a known fact in this film, so Lord & Miller made the smart choice early on to not only acknowledge it but to build it into the story’s narrative. The Duplos that “arrived” in Bricksburg are really the property of the family’s younger daughter; as Dad put it to his son at the end of the first film, “now that you can come down here [to the basement] and play, your sister can too.” Sis has a propensity for breaking the sets down and even taking lots of pieces upstairs to her room, so Bricksburg turns into “Apocalypseburg,” a typical post-apocalyptic wasteland for the most part – the random coffee shop still stays open for Emmett to frequent in his attempt to keep his cheery daily routine alive.
After five years, though, the little sister has grown up a bit, and now different types of “aliens” are visiting Apocalypseburg: led by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), our main characters minus Emmett are abducted to the “other realm” upstairs of the Systar System, where they are under the control of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, whose intentions are unknown: is she good, or evil, and will she play a role in Emmett’s precognition of the impending Our-Mom-Ageddon? It’s up to Emmett to team up with a dashing and rugged new character, Rex Dangervest, and his team of intelligent velociraptors to try and save his friends and prevent anything bad from happning. He’s… somewhat successful.
The newcomers to the already stellar voice cast are great additions to the tale. Beatriz brings the tough-and-tumble attitude she’s created on the TV show ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ to General Mayhem, and it’s exactly what the character needs. Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi is voiced by Tiffany Haddish, who takes just a few scenes to truly settle in to this is-she-or-isn’t-she-evil role but does get there and performs well overall. Richard Ayoade brings his dry wit to new ancillary character Ice Cream Cone, and we even get a more complete version of the Justice League, featuring Lego-film-series returning voice actors Channing Tatum (Superman), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Cobie Smulders (Wonder Woman), and Ralph Fiennes (Alfred) to go along with Margot Robbie voicing Harley Quinn and Jason Momoa giving us his version of Aquaman (with the “classic” Aquaman also appearing briefly for good measure). Heck, we even get Bruce Willis in multiple scenes, hilariously and randomly portraying a Lego version of himself. Neat!
The jokes are just as juvenile as the original “The Lego Movie,” with a good dash of “adult-level” jokes thrown in as well. Rex Dangervest is clearly an amalgamation of all the “studly” characters that Pratt has brought to life on-screen in other live-action movies, notably Star-Lord from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ Owen Grady from ‘Jurassic World,’ and Joshua Faraday from ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ among others. Batman and the Justice League are still as at-odds and self-referential as ever. The amount of licensed characters in this film is significantly reduced as compared to the original film, but we still get appearances from the likes of Gandalf from ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ Dorothy Gale and the characters from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ NBA and WBNA players, and more. Visually, the film is still an absolute playground for the Lego brand come to life, with well-paced “real-life” scenes interspersed throughout to remind the audience who the true “driving force” characters of the film are. The credits, as always in Lego films, are gorgeous and absolutely worth sitting through (no end credits scene, but lots to enjoy visually as the credits roll).
Is it a perfect film? No, absolutely not. It panders in places, drags in a few others, and gets off to a bit of a clunky start, but through it all, the sense of earnest fun permeates everything. Is my view of the film tinted by the fact that I grew up playing with Legos, or that my fabulous wife continues to buy me awesome Lego sets to this day for holidays, or that I have a 9-year-old daughter with lots of her own sets now that we love to construct together, or that I have a one-year-old son who just got his first set of Duplos for his birthday and has a great time alternately taking them apart and trying to shove them in his mouth? Almost assuredly, yes.
And that’s okay – we all have our “fandoms” that may make certain movies, TV shows, albums, books, etc., a little more appealing to us than others – but I’m fairly confident in saying that if you’ve enjoyed any of the other 3 recent Lego feature films (we’ve had an amazing ‘Lego Batman Movie’ and a just-okay ‘Lego Ninjago Movie’ to go along with the original ‘The Lego Movie’ over the last five years), you’ll find much to like here in ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.’