When I first learned of a theatrical LEGO movie to be released in early 2014, I’ll admit to being nearly 100% uninterested in a film that would undoubtedly turn out just as cookie-cutter as every direct-to-video Lego outing seen prior up to that point. This all changed, however, upon viewing the simply named The Lego Movie’s first teaser-this, truly, seemed like something different.
The Lego Movie, quite simply, blew me away upon first viewing-with an all-star cast consisting of the likes of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman, among many others too numerous to name, directors/writers Phil Lord & Christopher Miller have created a film that not only ropes in cameos from the various properties partnered with LEGO over the years (Star Wars, DC, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lord of the Rings, alongside others) but possesses some excellent messages about the meaning of LEGOs and how different generations interpret their intended use. Loaded with fantastic recurring jokes, a unique twist towards the end and a great final scene, The Lego Movie stands out as a Toy Story for a new era, with a story about being yourself that feels far more fresh than the extensive list of predecessors in possession of the same theme.
Though it’s been five long years since our intrepid anthropomorphic minifigs graced the silver screen, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part picks up right where the original left off, in which the city of Bricksburg has become Apocalypseburg following Emmet’s, the affable construction worker-turned-LEGO Master Builder, defeat of Lord Business and subsequent takeover by a race of DUPLOs seemingly bent on world domination. When his friends are captured by a mysterious figure and taken hostage by a bizarre queen in a far-off land, it’s up to Emmet to track them down, save the day and hopefully ward off an impending Armageddon that threatens their entire existence, once again.
Luckily, the cast operates on the same level of quality as seen in the original, with Pratt once again bringing a healthy dose of Andy Dwyer into his role as Emmet in addition to a new character, Rex Dangervest, a fusion of roughly every major role Pratt has either portrayed previously or is rumored to have taken. As Dangervest, Pratt gets another opportunity to deliver a decent amount of comedy, playing off himself as Emmet well with a deliberately over-the-top action hero performance and serving as a reminder of why Pratt is truly gifted in the field of effortless comedy. Elizabeth Banks once again does well as Lucy/Wyldstyle, with a slightly larger role than that seen in The Lego Movie and a further dive into her relationship with Emmet. Unfortunately, returning cast members Will Ferrell as President Business/The Man Upstairs, Alison Brie’s Unikitty, Nick Offerman’s Metalbeard and Charlie Day’s Benny all have significantly reduced screentime, while Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop/Scribble Cop & Morgan Freeman’s Virtuvius have no lines whatsoever. At least Will Arnett’s Batman gets a healthy chunk of the film, even if it’s largely unnecessary following his fantastic solo outing two years prior in The Lego Batman Movie, but for every decent quip escaping Batman’s lips there’s a joke taken too far, such as Unikitty’s Hulk-esque anger mode that was seen once towards the end of The Lego Movie as well as Benny’s continued obsession with spaceships, both of which become exhausting as the film slogs on.
Additionally, while Ben Schwartz voices a fairly humorous banana peel that indeed produced more than a few chuckles, Bruce Willis shows up in a decent cameo and there’s even an ode to Twilight which somewhat sticks the landing, Tiffany Haddish’s role as the aforementioned Queen Whatevra Wa’Nabi is an irritating, useless part of the film that isn’t just far bigger than necessary but somehow also involves a relationship with Batman that, while it does factor into the greater plot, isn’t exactly executed the smoothest. The Second Part is also rich with songs, more than what was seen/heard in the original, two of which are sung by Haddish and both of which could have been removed from the soundtrack without any detriment to the film whatsoever. Furthermore, Everything is Awesome, the original’s breakout hit, unfortunately is heard in several less-catchy variations, though there is a tune that, as its title suggests, will indeed get stuck inside your head.
Sadly, the failings of The Second Part continue-the ratio of bad jokes to good completely favors the former, while the film itself drags more often than not. The well-handled gimmicky twists that made The Lego Movie special are built upon time and again, making it easy to figure out where The Second Part is heading and thus removing a key element that still makes for pleasurable repeat viewings of the original to this day. There’s even several moments that seriously bring to mind whether or not these toys are actual living beings, another comparison to Toy Story and another leftover from the original that, strangely, removes a bit more of the franchise’s magic.
Director Mike Mitchell, who takes the reins of The Second Part from Lord & Miller-both of whom serve in writer/producer capacities this time around-has crafted a follow-up that at most is almost as good as its predecessor, while at least could be seen as supremely average on a whole. Underlying themes about sibling rivalry and clinging to one’s youth are explored this time around, and in this sense The Second Part nails said message(s) elegantly. The film even pays homage to classic time machines throughout film history in a rather affectionate fashion-why there’s a sudden interest in Back to the Future as of late, I’m sure I don’t know, but I’ll gladly accept it. A great cast helps to save The Second Part from a lackluster script, story and too many useless additions to a formula that didn’t need to be tweaked, almost to the point where the mere presence of said cast still makes yours truly consider the experience of watching this sequel a worthwhile endeavor for all. Fifteen years after helming Surviving Christmas, a widely disparaged film I proudly consider a guilty pleasure around the holidays, it’s nice to see Mitchell still churning out decent work, and know that as long as there continue to exist future LEGO movies, I’ll be there to take them in, piece by piece.
But hey, who am I to talk? Let’s ask my children what they thought.