Review: A Bigger Cast, A Bit Less Heart in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
One of the most enjoyable aspects of 2014’s The Lego Movie was the big mystery behind what it was that was creating and manipulating the characters and situations. The reveal (spoiler alert?) of it being a young boy (Jason Sand) and his brick-obsessed dad (Will Ferrell) was incredibly sweet and brought the messages of cooperation and creativity in this colorful, imaginary world into the very real world we live in. So now that that bit of mystery is out of the bag, the makers of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part have new challenges that involve more plot than reveals. While the human world is still very much a part of the story (and has grown to include The Florida Project’s Brooklynn Prince as little sister Bianca and Maya Rudolph as Mom), the shift in the message of the film becomes what happens when two people who want to play the same game can’t get along while doing so, which in turn threatens to forever destroy the very world they’ve created together.
Taking over for The Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who did write this screenplay) is Mike Mitchell, the highly capable filmmaker of such works as Sky High, Shrek Forever After and the wild Trolls. The action picks up five years after the original film, when Lego Duplo space invaders come to the familiar center of this Lego universe and threaten to destroy everything faster than the townspeople can rebuild. The Lego world our heroes now live in (renamed Apocalypseburg) looks more like Fury Road than a place where “everything is awesome,” but that doesn’t stop our hero Emmet (still voiced by Chris Pratt) from skipping through his day withe very few cares in the world. All that’s fine, because his friend Lucy (aka Wyldstyle, voiced by Elizabeth Banks) is doing enough worrying for the both of them.
With an enormous cast, all voiced by a host of fun and funny players (it’s nice that Jason Momoa gets to voice Lego Aquaman), the key players who come to the foreground are Will Arnett’s Batman, Alison Brie’s Unikitty, Nick Offerman’s MetalBeard and Charlie Day’s space man Benny. And when the primary invader named General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) kidnaps all of them but Emmet, it’s up to him to hop in a ship and rescue his friends. While the team have to figure out the endgame of one Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who seems to be behind the invading forces, Emmet meets up with dashing, fearless, rugged hero Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt and an amalgam of many characters that Pratt has played in recent years), who agrees to help Emmet on his quest to save his friends while also acting as a role model for toughness in Emmet’s life.
Without giving too much away, some of the themes of The Lego Movie 2 involve not accepting everything at face value and getting to know someone before you pass judgement on them. They are lessons hard learned in both of these converging storylines. The thread involving Emmet and Rex is remarkably similar to Peter Quill’s journey in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, while the plot built around Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (who lives in the “Systar” star system, which gives you an indication of how not subtle this film is too often) is built around being chaotic and weird, which makes it a great deal of fun even if it packs less of an emotional punch in the end than the original film. That being said, the idea of the queen taking a romantic liking to Batman sets up some of the movie’s most hilariously awkward moments.
The look of these movies may not have changed much in five years, but the devotion to something with a tad more substance seems to have waned a bit. The Lego Movie 2 is certainly a quality work as far as its pure entertainment value (let’s be honest: a recurring Bruce Willis-themed gag can’t be beat), but I wish the filmmakers has devoted slightly more screen time to what gave the first film (and last year’s The Lego Batman Movie, for that matter) its heart.
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