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When The Lego Movie opened in 2014, no one had very high hopes for the film. After all, how could a movie designed and produced by a corporate toy company be anything more than an extended toy commercial with nothing deeper than surface level sheen? While The Lego Movie showed plenty of product, it also surprised almost everyone with its wit, characters, and story about letting your imagination run wild.
The Lego Movie 2 doesn’t have the element of surprise this time, and it’s analogies relating the Lego world to the real world feel a bit clunkier. That being said, it does have the same level of heart, the same hyperactive sense of humor, copious amounts of pop culture jokes for kids and adults, and an overall story that can relate to the kid in all of us.
Beginning where the last film ended, The Lego Movie 2 finds nearly every returning character from the original returning, minus the ghost of Vitruvius, voiced in the original by Morgan Freeman. They’re faced with an onslaught of childlike space Lego creature that decimate Bricksburg, turning it into the very Mad Max-ian Apocalypseburg. With his friends beamed up by the alien invaders, Master Builder Emmet Brickowski must head into space and rescue them, aided by his new found mega-serious action friend, Rex Dangervest. Meanwhile, the rest of our crew is held captive by Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi of the Systar System who seeks a partner for a ceremonial marriage.
Part of what makes both the first and second Lego Movies (and to a lesser degree, their spinoffs) is the high energy output of their respective, impressively large casts. Nearly everyone returns for the sequel, although it is so jam-packed with characters and action that some of the secondary characters don’t have as much to do as the did in the original. Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks are still wonderful as Emmet and Lucy, respectively, and Pratt also gets to meta goof on himself by also voicing Rex, a parody of his action hero roles.
Of the new cast, both Tiffany Haddish and Stephanie Beatriz make the most out of their time as Queen Watevra and General Sweet Mayhem. Returning members all get a least one moment to shine, though you wouldn’t be wrong for wanting more. There’s also a hefty amount of voice cameos, including a few meta jokes from a former A-List superstar that is mind blowing in its existence.
Part of the joy of these films is seeing the craft that gets put into making a computer animated film seem as if it was made with nothing but real Lego pieces. That trend continues here, and while things take a turn towards the sci-fi, it’s still fairly amazing to see all the little details in the animation. Various characters and Lego pieces appear to have smudges, scratches, and fingerprints. Water, fire, explosions, and dust are all animated via Lego pieces. There are still moments where I think they’ve used real Lego pieces in stop-motion, even though I know it to be untrue.
There are wonderful sight and sound gags throughout the entire film, including some dangerously catchy new songs. Yes, ‘Everything is Awesome’ makes several remixed appearances, but the new songs like ‘Catchy Song’ and the sure-to-be-overlooked ode to end credits, ‘Super Cool’ are equally snappy. The jokes fly fast for both kids and parents, and there was a particular double whammy Radiohead/Elliott Smith joke that nearly brought me to tears. There’s enough for everyone to catch here, matching manic sight gags for kids with references for the adults.
Director Mike Mitchell puts together a bright, beautiful, hyperactive movie from a script by original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Lord and Miller are masters of taking bad ideas and turning them into hilarious, heartfelt gold, and The Lego Movie 2 is no exception.
The Lego Movie shared a fantastic story twist, revealing that everything that was happening was in the mind of a live-action kid, Finn, and that the villain of the film, President Business, was an avatar for his dad. It used this twist to really drive home its theme of being able to build without instructions, to let your imagination wander and explore and that anybody can do anything with that freedom.
The Lego Movie 2 expands on this device, often times invoking the real world in frequent ways that the original avoided. The parallels aren’t nearly as veiled, either. If you take a look at the names and locations used, such as the Systar System, Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, or Armamageddon, you’ll get a general idea of where the story is going. This removes the surprise factor, but doesn’t make it any less of a impactful story about inclusion, sharing, and being true to yourself. It’s a good message for kids and adults alike, that being good and decent and welcoming can make everything awesome.
The Final Pop
The Lego Movie 2, by its very existence, doesn’t hold the same surprise or creative surplus that it’s predecessor benefited from. It is, however, a sequel that manages to at least match the original for wit, humor for all ages, catchy songs, and a touching theme of inclusion, decency, and creativity. Everything might not be awesome, but it sure is pretty great.
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