A film review by Craig J. Koban February 18, 2019

THE LEGO MOVIE 2:

THE SECOND PART jjj
   

2019, PG, 107 mins.

 

Chris Pratt as Emmet Brickowski / Rex Dangervest (voice)  /  Elizabeth Banks as Lucy "Wyldstyle" (voice)  /  Will Arnett as Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)  /  Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (voice)  /  Stephanie Beatriz as Sweet Mayhem  /  Alison Brie as Princess Unikitty (voice)  /  Nick Offerman as MetalBeard (voice)  /  Charlie Day as Benny the Spaceman (voice)  /  Margot Robbie as Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn (voice)  /  Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman (voice)  /  Channing Tatum as Clark Kent / Superman (voice)  /  Jonah Hill as Hal Jordan / Green Lantern (voice)  /  Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (voice)  /  Jadon Sand as Finn (voice)  /  Brooklynn Prince as Bianca (voice)  /  Ben Schwartz as Banarnar (voice)  /  Will Forte as Abraham Lincoln (voice)  /  Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth (voice)  /  Jimmy O. Yang as Enthusiastic Zebra (voice)  /  Jorma Taccone as Larry Poppins (voice)  /  Will Ferrell as President Business (voice) / Dad  

Directed by Mike Mitchell  /  Written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

 

 

 

SCREENED IN
3D

I had the lowest of low expectations going into the original LEGO MOVIE back in 2014, seeing as I thought it was another lame and bottom feeding attempt on Hollywood's part to try to cash in by making a prominent toy line into a feature length film.   

Rather improbably - and some would say (ahem!) awesomely - the Chris Miller and Phil Lord animated effort was a joyously unexpected cinematic curveball that reveled in sharp, sophisticated, and super self aware satire while painstakingly creating some of the most sumptuous and detailed visuals I've ever seen in an animated film.  Yes, THE LEGO MOVIE was designed to further push the brand and sell toys, but it wasn't dosed with merchandising-heavy cynicism: Lord and Miller's film was laced with surprising wit and self-deprecating intelligence, and it was one of the best animated films of its year. 

That's the thing, though, that THE LEGO MOVIE had in spades: an element of wonderful surprise and discovery.  Very few - myself, again, being no exception - gave the film much of a fighting chance going in, which allowed for people to become so genuinely enamored and astonished by the end result.  As is the case with most sequels that attempt to re-capture pop culture lightning in a bottle twice, THE LEGO MOVIE begat follow-up entries of decreasing and diminishing returns, such as sharp as a tack, but not quite as awesome THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, which was followed by THE LEGO NINJANGO MOVIE, the least of the franchise and one that started to show elements of series fatigue.  This takes me to the inevitable (and amusingly titled) THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART, which does contain the first film's same infectious, go-for-broke comic zaniness in lampooning all aspects of toy and movie culture, not to mention that it features the same high pedigree of beautifully realized animation.  Where this sequel flounders a bit, though, is on that aforementioned sensation of enterprising newness and freshness.  THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART deserves props for trying...and trying hard (perhaps too hard at times) to attain the high bar of comic lunacy of its prequel, but it doesn't quite match the euphoric aura of mischievous freshness of what came before.   

 

 

Having said that, what other animated film could? 

At the very least, THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART doesn't try to lazily retell the same narrative of the first film and instead - like good sequels - dives the audience head first into a whole new set of predicaments for its established characters.  Five years have passed since the perpetual do-gooder that is Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) and his angular and plastic limbed buddies defeated Lord Business and restored order and harmony to the Lego universe.  Emmet and his pals are back - including his girl-powered girlfriend in Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), the self-aggrandizing Batman (Will Arnett), the bright and free spirited Unikitty (Alison Brie), and spaceman and spaceship worshipping Benny (Charlie Day) - but this time they're are thrust into a post-apocalyptic hellhole called, rather fittingly, Apocalypseburg, which looks like a brick-for-brick recreation of George Miller's MAD MAX series (rather hilariously, Emmet still finds never-ending feel-goodness in the world, despite the fact that it's gone to hell).   

To make Apocalypseburg more...apocalyptic, Emmet and his clan face a new threat in the form changing Lego Duplo figures invading from outer space and wanting to destroy everything in their path.  The leader of the Duplo army, General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatrice), announces that Queen Whatevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) intends to abduct Emmet and his friends in order to marry Batman.  Predictably, poor old Emmet is forced on the offensive and realizes that he has to make his own intergalactic journey to stop the Queen, which culminates in him being befriended by the mysterious Rex Dangervest  (Pratt), who becomes - shall we say - a very important player in everything with intimate ties to Emmet's past and future. 

Lord and Miller are back to pen the screenplay here, but are absent behind the camera, with director duties being handed down to Mike Mitchell (whose resume is inconsistent, to say the least, sporting SHREK FOREVER AFTER, TROLLS and ALVIN AND CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED).  The team assembled for this go around make decent attempts to propel the characters established from the first forward into new worlds, which helps override any semblance of complaints about THE LEGO MOVIE 2 being a dry rehash.  The film also abandons Emmet as the main everyman hero and props up Lucy into the role of main hero this time, which injects a nice layer of feminist might into the proceedings.  The bubbly and carefree charm of the original is still here in abundance as well (albeit in a tad more of a muted tone), but Lord and Miller still score some mightily funny zingers and craft some delightful moments of inspired comic zaniness.  There are ample self-aware gags, especially a song (one of many) that mocks Pratt's recent career in blockbuster films (Rex Dangervest has his own army of trained velociraptors, which the incredulous Emmet laughs off as silly).  I also appreciated the extended subplot of Haddish's Queen pulling off all the stops to seduce Arnett's monumentally ego-driven Batman and make him her trophy husband.  The Caped Crusader has a difficult time backing down to any challenge, which usually results in him boasting about himself ("How many movies are made about you," he lashes out at one point. "I have nine, and three currently in development!"). 

THE LEGO MOVIE 2 is also, well, strange...like....really strange, and sometimes its willingness to simply go to multiple weird and incongruent places gives the narrative a choppy and disjointed momentum.  The sheer and limitless volume of everything that is thrown up on screen sometimes becomes more exhausting than entertaining, and there are more than a few times during its far-too-long running time when THE LEGO MOVIE 2 feels too hyper caffeinated for its own good.  There's an awful lot of expositional particulars that audience members will have to wade through in order to get to the main meat and potatoes of the plot, which gives the film a paradoxically slower pacing despite the unbridled madness that ensues in it (unlike its predecessor, it takes an awfully long time for THE LEGO MOVIE 2 to settle in and replicate the intro installment's unstoppable gusto).  Lord and Miller have a tremendous amount of crafty ideas at the heart of this sequel, but sometimes their plotting feels simply too overstuffed and padded.  It's like they're throwing as much material into a blender as possible and aggressively mix it together in hopes that it will all flow smoothly as one homogenized whole.  Sometimes, THE LEGO MOVIE 2 is brilliantly and memorably daffy, but there are many other moments that land with disappointing thuds. 

Mitchell, to his credit, is a good pinch hitter filmmaker here, and THE LEGO MOVIE 2 looks every much as dynamic and dazzling as its predecessor without falling victim to feeling the need to outdo the first film (more often than not, more and bigger doesn't mean better in sequels).   And the voice talents on display are just as enthusiastically engaged as ever (Pratt in particular has fun with the extremes of playing two completely different characters).  THE LEGO MOVIE 2 will emerge as critic proof for fans that loved the 2014 entry, and it still qualitatively emerges far higher than what most sequels - animated or not - come up with these days (the film still has heart and humor in equal dosages).  Maybe the ludicrous novelty of THE LEGO MOVIE 1 is in slightly shorter supply here...and maybe the jokes aren't as consistently uproarious this time either...and maybe there have been too many LEGO movies in such a short span that the series is beginning to lose its luster.  THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART is undoubtedly entertaining and endearing in parts, but it made me a tad less excited to see another entry.   

And for all of the gags that didn't work, the makers saved the best for last (like, dead last) in a deliriously giddy and catchy end credits song that shows obsessive amounts of fanboy love for how super it is to sit through end credits and gush over the people that make movies.  THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART may not be the second coming of greatness for the beloved toyetic franchise, but it definitely gives you a reason to sit through it until the very end. 

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