Review – The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
Director: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Jadon Sand, Brooklynn Prince, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell
Very few films have managed to capture the magic of imagination and creativity the way Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The Lego Movie did. Wonderfully inventive in style and story, it defied any fears of it being a cynical exercise in product placement to surprise audiences and critics alike. After a couple of inferior spinoffs – The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie – the franchise returns to its core narrative for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. But even with Lord and Miller returning as writers and producers, something of the spark of the original is unfortunately missing.
Everything is no longer awesome. In the five years since everyman Emmet (Chris Pratt) liberated Bricksburg from the tyrannical Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a series of attacks from alien Duplo monsters have seen it reduced to a Fury Road-style wasteland. It has become a harder, tougher world for everyone except Emmet, who remains his same, innocent self. Yet even he is having dreams, or are the premonitions, that their world would be destroyed. When an alien envoy led by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) kidnaps all of Apocalypseburg’s leaders under the orders of Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), it falls to the left behind Emmet to rescue his friends. Along the way he meets Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt), a hard and tough, cool space dude who is everything Emmet is not. Dangervest advises the master builder Emmet that if he wants to save the day he will have to “get in touch with some pretty grown up feelings” and become a master breaker.
The Lego Movie perfectly captured the joy of imagination, the limitless splicing together of disparate worlds, with characters who had no business sharing a story being brought together by the unrestricted imagination of a child. Where Toy Story imagines toys coming to life when no one is looking, the final act of The Lego Movie revealed that everything we were seeing was in the imagination of a young boy playing with his father’s Lego collection. The message was beautifully simple: there is no wrong way to play with Lego. However, rather than building on this idea, for this sequel we somewhat awkwardly regress, unlearning the lessons from last time in order to relearn them. The meta conflict is no longer between a boy and his father, but between that now slightly older Finn (Jadon Sand) and his younger sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). The threat posed to Apocalypseburg by aliens who all happen to be female and come from the Sister System, represents his frustration that, just as he wouldn’t play by his father’s rules, his sister won’t play by his.
The narrative here, however, merely serves as a skeleton on which to hang jokes, and in this regard The Second Part is just as densely packed as the first. Lord and Miller are sharp comic writers and they take full advantage of this pop culture playground’s potential for surreal incongruity – where else would you see the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz sharing a scene with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Finn being a few years older than the last adventure grants access to a range of new, slightly more mature references – the centrepiece of Apocalypseburg is the fallen Statue of Liberty from The Planet of the Apes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have made way for nods to Bruce Willis and The Matrix. We are given more music this time around too. Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi’s ‘Not Evil’ fails to convince any of her captives of her good intentions, while ‘Catchy Song’ attempts to out-earworm ‘Everything is Awesome’ with its repeated chorus, “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head.”
As expected, the voice cast is also a lot of fun. Chris Pratt gets the opportunity to poke some fun at his own career in playing Rex Dangervest as an exaggerated amalgam of his roles from films like Jurassic World, The Magnificent Seven and Guardians of the Galaxy. While the film continues to lean heavily on Will Arnett’s Batman schtick, which third time around is starting to wear thin, and Elizabeth Banks isn’t given a great deal to do, Tiffany Haddish is a welcome addition as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, and there is a sea of cameos from the likes of Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes and Will Forte.
The Lego Movie’s focus on imagination was accompanied by a striking visual inventiveness. But fourth time around, Australian effects company Animal Logic’s animation, while still being top notch, has lost some of its freshness and excitement. While Lego Movie 2 does well plenty of the things that the original did, its failure to push things forward in terms of narrative, theme or look, mean is starts to suffer from the law of diminishing returns. You will have fun watching The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, and you will get plenty of laughs, but it doesn’t crackle like it did first time around and it won’t stay with you in the same way.
Review by Duncan McLean
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