The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (Mike Mitchell, 2019) 2½ out of 4 stars.
I loved The Lego Movie, which came out in 2014 to great critical and commercial success. Though seemingly a marketing ploy to sell more LEGO toys, the film – from co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who also gave us 21 and 22 Jump Street and this year produced Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) – offered so much more, embedding sweet life lessons about battling conformity and spending time with your kids, among other things, into a disarmingly, effortlessly engaging animated action-adventure-comedy that never stopped moving, because more actually meant more. With terrific vocal performances from actors like Will Arnett (Netflix’s BoJack Horseman series), Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy), Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home) and lead Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), to name but a few, The Lego Movie combined delightful panache with real emotional heft. Surprised I was, and supremely entertained.
After two spinoff features – The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie, both released in 2017 and neither as fresh as the original – the series returns with a sequel, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which offers some interesting plot twists and new material, but ultimately devolves into a messy confection that loses itself in the details. Less, here, might have been more. But there is still fun to be had, even if it often seems as if everyone is trying a bit too hard. Director Mike Mitchell* (Shrek Forever After), despite a less-than-perfect script (by Lord and Miller), delivers moments of genuine humor and feeling, but is unable to elevate the story to the same plane as before. Nevertheless, one could do worse (even if one could do better), and there are enough pockets of cleverness to carry us through to the end, where we are rewarded with a smart, sassy credits theme that is definitely worth sitting through (if, like everything else, not as catchy as the first film’s earworm “Everything is AWESOME!”).
As in Part 1, we cut back and forth between the live-action world of children playing with their LEGO collection and the animated world of their fantasy, only this time that connection is much more explicit, and the intrusions of the former into the latter more frequent. The entire plot of Part 2 revolves around a dispute, in the human world, between older brother Finn (the boy at the center of Part 1) and younger sister Bianca. She just wants to play, and he resists, so naturally mayhem follows, sweeping up our plastic heroes in the destruction.
Pratt and company return, joined by newcomer Tiffany Hadish (Girls Trip) as, effectively, young Bianca’s raging id come to fruition, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi. She is the ruler of an intergalactic force that lays waste to Bricksburg, transforming it into the dusty, ruined Apocalypseburg. Pratt’s ever-ebullient Emmet can’t quite stop loving life, however, especially since he still gets to spend it with Lucy (Banks), however doom-and-gloom she may be. What follows will test both his spirit and love. Will he defeat the forces of evil before the arrival of “Ourmamageddon” and the destruction of all he holds dear? The joy is in the adventure, however forced it may seem (and filled with endless, eventually fatiguing references to other movies). Personally, by the conclusion I felt as if I had eaten too much candy (or was that the new earworm buzzing in my ear?). If your tolerance for pop junk is higher, you may fare better. At least I laughed more than I didn’t.
*[Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I have met director Mitchell a number of times, and he is a delightful person. His Sky High remains a favorite.]