Starring: Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip), Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Charlie Day (Pacific Rim), Alison Brie (GLOW), Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation)
Director: Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After)
Writers: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street)
Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes
Release Date: 8 February (US, UK)
You can’t make The Lego Movie again. You just can’t. It was a lightning-in-a-bottle movie that subverted all expectations and took what seems like a cynical brand management exercise on paper and turned it into a biting satire of corporate assimilation and a heart-warming affirmation of Lego’s core tenets. You can’t exactly pull the rug out from under the audience again now that we know where the rug is and what it looks like, so it’s never going to be as effective. The Lego Batman Movie took the right tack by focusing more on lampooning Batman as a character, whilst The Lego Ninjago Movie was more of a generic kids movie that just aped the animation style and comedic tone, so not even The Lego Movie’s spin-offs attempted to follow in its footsteps. Luckily, even acknowledging that we’ve already seen the trick, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part still has plenty up its sleeve and delivers the laughs and heart in ample form.
Picking up right after the events of the first film before jumping five years later, The Lego Movie 2 smartly doesn’t fall back on resetting the status quo in either its main story or framing device. Instead, it does what a smart sequel does and brings in new conflicts and ideas whilst also highlighting unresolved lesser themes of its predecessor. The plot jumps right in and assumes the audience is familiar with its premise and characters, resulting in a slightly rushed first act that seems impatient to get to the point. Luckily, once all the new pieces are in place, the film settles in and then has ample time to cover a wide variety of topics to lampoon, from blockbuster cinema and popular music to Disney musicals and tween romance. However, the subversive undercurrents of the first film are still firmly in place, and the film’s messages about toxic masculinity, sibling rivalry and understanding true maturity over edgelord posturing are incredibly well-summarised and palatable for both the kids and the adults in the audience. Again, the first film pulled pretty much this exact same trick, but even if it’s not as surprising this time it remains emotionally effective, and a natural evolution of what its predecessor set out to do. The only real issue with the film’s storytelling comes in its framing device, which isn’t lampshaded so much this time around and doubles down on the confusing implications of how it affects the main plot and vice versa. The first film luckily didn’t dwell on this too much for it to matter, but this time around it’s a more obvious problem that I wish had been handled in a smarter fashion.
Much of the cast of characters from the first film have returned here, and everyone delivers a stellar vocal performance as expected. Chris Pratt’s Emmet is as lovably goofy as ever whilst not reverting him back to the ineffectual fool he was in the first film. Instead, Lego Movie 2 instead focuses on Emmet’s unending optimism as his core arc this time around, and his quest to “mature” makes for an allegoric journey a lot of young boys really need to hear. In contrast, Pratt also voices new character Rex Dangervest, a humorous send-up of Pratt’s own post-Lego Movie career and a caricature of angst-ridden ciphers loved by insecure teenagers, who makes for a perfect foil to Emmet’s naivety. The rest of the returning cast doesn’t get nearly as much development, mostly serving as comic relief this time around, but they’re a fun presence all the same and there are some standout moments; Batman’s continued mining for arrogant superiority takes a very interesting turn for instance, as does the further exploration of Wyldstyle’s “shameful” history. The two main new additions this time around are Tiffany Haddish and Stephanie Beatriz as Queen Waterva Wa’Nabi and General Mayhem respectively. Whilst Beatriz’s presence is somewhat squandered, especially since her voice is heavily modulated to near-unrecognizable levels for much of the film, Haddish is allowed plenty of room to have fun and be herself; she is certainly the film’s MVP.
The animation of The Lego Movie was astonishing five years ago, rendering an entire world made out of digital plastic bricks and animating it in the vein of stop-motion fan films for one of the most unique aesthetics in animated film history. Again, the novelty factor has well worn-off at this point, but that doesn’t mean Lego Movie 2 looks dated or passé; far from it. The filmmakers have continued to find new ways of doing unexpected things with the Lego format whilst also just having fun with the designs; particular favourites of mine being the Mad Max-inspired city of Apocalypseburg and Dangervest’s fist-shaped spaceship. Music was also a big part of the first movie with the ever-catchy “Everything is Awesome”, and this time they’ve quadrupled down on it. The film not only features a few retoolings of the prior film’s hit tune, but new songs covering a wide variety of bizarre topics that are going to get stuck inside your head quite literally.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part can’t help but pale in comparison to the original, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try. On the contrary, it brings plenty of new and thought-provoking ideas to the table with that signature Lord & Miller sense of humour and social commentary. Whilst certainly not as good a sequel as Toy Story 2, it does achieve similar ambitions in developing the themes of its predecessor for not only new gags but also surprising emotional depths. I honestly don’t see where else you could take this series without completely aping the aforementioned Pixar franchise’s third entry by exploring what happens when childhood inevitably ends, so sadly I think they’d be best leaving the adventures of Emmet and friends here. Sure, maybe make some more spin-offs, but after this I’d say there’s no reason to do a third Lego Movie unless they come up with a really fresh, revolutionary idea. Then again, doing that seems to be Lord & Miller’s bread and butter, so I wouldn’t totally put it past them to figure out how to do just that.
FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10