Film Review – The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The LEGO Movie (2014) came as a kind of revelation. Here was a film that was – in essence – a feature length commercial for the LEGO building blocks toys. Yet under the guidance of the writing/directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, we got a surprisingly entertaining and thoughtful story about being yourself, thinking outside the box, and being creative. The LEGO franchise was further enhanced by The LEGO Batman Movie (2017), which worked as a loving homage to the Batman character and explored the dynamic between the Caped Crusader and his arch nemesis – the Joker – better than most others.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) explores much of the same territory as its predecessor, but the returns have diminished somewhat. This doesn’t have the same kind of surprise the first film did, nor does it flip genres in the same way as The LEGO Batman Movie. It successfully translates the high-octane energy and avalanche of jokes and one-liners, but the spark isn’t quite there. You know that a franchise is starting to fall under the weight of its own success when it starts referencing itself. We have plenty of songs that knowingly acknowledges how brutally catchy they are, and the popular “Everything is Awesome” is remixed to be a parody of itself. Creative? Sure. A little self-indulgent? Perhaps.
Mike Mitchell takes directing duties with Lord and Miller on the screenplay. This time, the LEGO world has been invaded by LEGO Duplo monsters (LEGO Duplo being blocks large enough to be handled by toddlers). Our friendly but naïve protagonist Emmet (Chris Pratt) must garner the courage and strength to save his friends Wydstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and Benny (Charlie Day) as they are captured by a mysterious warrior named General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz). General Mayhem works for Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), a shape-shifting being who has plans up her sleeves but swears she’s not evil. Along the way, Emmet joins forces with the Kurt Russell-inspired Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) a macho badass who helps Emmet get in touch with his more masculine self.
Just like in the first entry, the pacing of The LEGO Movie 2 is so lightning fast that you’ll be laughing at one joke only to miss the next one right behind it. Usually, I’m not a fan of this hyper-kinetic approach, but this is one of those rare exceptions. It’s clear that the production wants this universe to be seen through the eyes of a child, and seeing how the characters bounce from one point to the next is reminiscent of a kid coming up with scenarios in their mind. The animation – which has improved in the five years since The LEGO Movie – has a creative way of rendering environments. Golden stars are used like grenades, and little stickers are used to entrap characters like rope. The colors are bright and vibrant, and work in moments of humor, danger, and even deep emotion.
I don’t think I’ve seen a character quite like Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi. She doesn’t have a shape or form, but is clearly defined and unique. Even Aladdin’s Genie had a signature look. Queen Wa’Nabi changes her figure to appease whatever situation she is in, with only her colors (red and orange) staying constant. Haddish infuses her with a persona all her own and can play both sides of the coin convincingly well. Her song “Not Evil” is so perfectly twisted in how she is literally telling us that she’s not bad person, but the effect making us feel anything but. In “Gotham City Guys” she seduces Batman into her employ by playing to his pride and insecurities. She’s a slickster, but one that we love to watch do her thing.
It’s too bad the narrative didn’t have much more to say outside of what the first film already explored. Themes of identity and non-conformity are again brought to the forefront, but the result doesn’t gel together as well as it did before. For those that saw The LEGO Movie, you’ll remember the surprise twist that brought everything together and really solidified the emotional element. This time we get flashes of it all throughout the runtime, but it doesn’t have the same impact. The plot itself – involving Emmet’s journey – is more convoluted than it needed to be, with the stakes not feeling all that pressing or urgent. This is one of those classic examples of a predicament that could have been saved by a simple explanation, and yet the plot mechanics are moving so fast that no one has the time to iron out the misunderstanding.
I liked The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, but I think if this franchise is to move forward, doing the same thing over and over again may prove detrimental. This is now two films in a row that promotes standing out and never settling for the same old routine. If we get a third film that does what the last two have done, we may end up finding a series that does exactly the opposite of what it’s preaching against. And that, my friends, would surely not be awesome.