The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
In an alternate timeline where The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was in fact the first of the series, it would rival just about any animated film that’s likely to come out this year. It’s smart, beautifully rendered, and has clever set-pieces. It’s got a terrific voice cast, a nice little meta-story, and plenty of laughs along the way. So, what’s the problem?
Well, it’s a sequel to one of the greatest animated films of the last few decades, for one. The Lego Movie was preposterously good, a whiz-bang film that beautifully encapsulated the sense of play associated with the Lego brand. Its storyline about the challenges of holding onto things and being afraid to take risks (the Kraggle myth) was equal parts silly and profound. It was literally greater than the sum of its bricks, a glorious movie aimed squarely at ages 2 to 120.
The Second Part picks up where the last one let off. After a Duplo invades the calm of post-war Bricksburgh, the characters are plunged into an apocalyptic heckscape. Five years on, things have truly turned for the worse and a Mad Max-ian ennui has settled in for almost everyone.
Naturally, Emmett is still singing away, deluded that everything’s awesome even when it’s clearly not. When an invasion from the Systar System kidnaps key characters, Emmett must travel to make things right again.
Regular voice performers reprise their roles, including Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, and Elizabeth Banks. Newcomers include Stephanie Beatriz as General Sweet Mayhem and Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, a shapeshifting brick queen who sings about how she’s most definitely not the evil one in this story.
It’s all kind of great, yet feels very much the same, a fine line to be drawn for sure. Accepting that we’re simply not going to get the same fresh explosion of creativity as the first film, it’s easy enough to settle in and revel in the cleverness of the animation. Wa-Nabi’s many forms are an exercise in differing poses, producing an enormous amount of emotion out of traditional Lego bricks.
The movie has some clever cameos (Bruce Willis in particular) and enough quips to keep everything chugging along. However, a general sense that it’s all been done before, and better, constantly creeps up. It’s hard, at least on first viewing, to divorce one’s pleasure with the first film when so much of this sequel goes out of its way to remind you of what’s come before.
Even the music is half-baked, despite an attempt to craft a new earworm. Simply put, there’s nothing as awesome as “Everything Is Awesome,” and given the several reprises of that tune it’s clear the filmmakers know it.
In the end, The Second Part fits together well with the pieces that came before, but they’re additions to what was already a pretty definitive model. It’s hard to say how the filmmakers could take the whole thing apart and craft something truly new, but as a kind of mild renovation it’s an impressive enough build. It’s a perfectly fine film, with enough cleverness, whimsy, and joy to entertain just about anyone. With another mighty impressive end credit animation with real bricks, there’s a lot to admire. Maybe not everything’s awesome, but perhaps it’s OK to be pretty good, especially when coming back for a second time.