The LEGO Movie was arguably one of the biggest surprises of 2014, but what wasn’t a surprise after massive success at the box office is a sequel getting the green light to go into production from Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Animation Group. It was always going to be a challenge to live up to the success of the original, but the direction from Mike Mitchell, and pens of writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have crafted a solid sequel in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, which retains the spirit, tone and sense of humor from the original, and remains entertaining despite an air of familiarity.
Everything’s not awesome in Bricksburg following the invasion of LEGO DUPLO toys from Planet Duplo; will Emmet Brickowski harden himself with the times in time to save his friends and the world from certain destruction?
When it was announced that Warner Bros. Pictures gave the greenlight for a movie about the iconic LEGO toy brand to be produced by their animation studio, Warner Animation Group, the news was understandably met with more skepticism than genuine excitement. Would a brand-based movie be focused on keeping children occupied for two hours while functioning as a 90-minute advertisement for the very product on which it’s based, or was there more to the movie than meets the eye? Thankfully, the latter was the case, because with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller at the pen and helm, The LEGO Movie turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of 2014 thanks to a self-aware sense of humor, an energetic pace, and a heartwarming message that not only can anyone be creative, but also that everyone is special.
The success of the first movie naturally brought on a couple spinoffs featuring LEGO Batman and the LEGO Ninjago line of toys, and now fresh off the success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Lord and Miller return this year to the franchise looking to replicate the same success of the first movie with its sequel, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. Lord and Miller remain the minds behind the film’s script while Mike Mitchell (Trolls) takes over directing duties of a narrative that picks up right where the first one left off: as Emmet, Lucy, Batman, Unikitty, Metalbeard and Benny find themselves confronted by invading characters made from the LEGO sub-brand of DUPLO toys. Sure enough, despite a constant presence of familiarity in terms of story structure, The Second Part remains just as entertaining as its predecessor, even if it has problems not uncommon in most sequels.
After naive but endearing Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) makes a peace offering gone awry, the DUPLO characters incite a war with Emmet and the gang, along with the citizens of Bricksburg. Five years later, the war has turned Bricksburg into a Mad Max-esque dystopian city called Apocalypseburg, and its citizens have hardened their resolve with the times, complete with spiked shoulder pads, jaded, grumpy attitudes, and even the ability to brood dramatically, in the case of Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). But Emmet remains as lovable as ever despite the state of things, and even shows Lucy the house he’s built for the two of them in his spare time while the war is ongoing.
Lucy tries to tell her love interest that the world has changed, and implores him to toughen up like everyone else, while Emmet shares his recurring dreams about a world-ending event. But before the two can learn anymore about their respective revelations, a mercenary named General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives to kidnap Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Benny (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), then takes them to Planet DUPLO in the Systar System, where Batman is to be married to the system’s ruler, Queen Watevra Wanabe (Tiffany Haddish), a being who can change her form into . . . well, whatever she wants to be. Meanwhile, it’s up to Emmet to rescue them from certain danger, and along the way, he gets help from Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), a multi-skilled adventurer that radiates the rugged machismo Emmet aspires to attain.
Emmet confronts both his polar opposite and imprinted role model in the form of Rex while Lucy is forced to confront her own repressed femininity in the Systar system, and these thematic aspects are the most compelling elements of this sequel. Without giving anything away, The Second Part is always as entertaining to watch as it is fascinating thanks to how well it communicates a timely message to children about remaining optimistic in times of emotional strife, and balancing both the masculine and feminine aspects of one’s personality in every point of its multi-plotted narrative with honesty and optimism. The film also retains the gorgeous animation of the trendsetting first movie, and goes down a more creative avenue by implementing more elements of stop-motion animation amongst the trendsetting computer animation, often times for comedic effect.
The new characters and worlds are also welcome additions to the franchise; Alison Brie has morphed Unikitty into Ultrakatty, an extreme version of the former character that’s ferocious to the point of hilarity, and Haddish’s animated embellishment and spunk are perfect for Wanabe as a character, on top of the energetic tone of the film. Meanwhile, the Systar System succeeds in crafting the childish but feminine opposite to Apocalypseburg’s juvenile, grimdark aesthetic as a Lisa Frank-esque suburbia with vibrant colors and a constant soundtrack of catchy pop music. It’s worth noting that The Second Part also tries to set itself apart from the first LEGO movie by being more of a musical this time around, but aside from the accurately named “Catchy Song” and a song themed around the cinematic history of Batman, the songs are entertaining for the film’s runtime, but not for much longer.
On that note, the biggest issue of The Second Part is that it’s all too familiar to the first film in terms of story structure to its detriment. While the first film’s climax hinged on an incendiary twist that took its story to a place audiences didn’t expect it to go, The Second Part returns to that very reality for a certain subplot so often, that the twists and emotional punches it makes to the arcs of Emmet and Lucy don’t hit as hard as they should. This also suffers from a similar setback as other films in this franchise in that there are so many jokes a minute, that not only is it easy to miss other jabs at contemporary pop culture or character cameos, there’s also not enough time to catch up and gather an affinity for a certain character when a part of their backstory is explored.
But despite all that, The Second Part remains as entertaining as its predecessor, because it wasn’t made without the infectious charm and energy that made the first LEGO movie so special. Kids will learn important lessons about getting along with each other and staying good-natured, be enthralled from beginning to end when Emmet is thrust into another adventure right at the get-go, feel in awe over the vibrant worlds to which his journey takes him and laugh at all the vehicles Metalbeard’s head ends up connected to along the way.
Meanwhile, adults will appreciate the surprise cameos from LEGO versions of famous characters in pop culture, from the likes of Scooby-Doo’s Velma and Bruce Willis to historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Cleopatra. Older audiences will also reflect on their own selves with the films messages, and laugh at the sharp dialogue rife with pop culture references and jabs at the state of the film industry (wait until you hear why the Marvel characters aren’t around to save Apocalypseburg). The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part will appeal to everyone that loved the first film because while it might be similar in structure to the first film, it’s also similar in tone and spirit, and when it comes to this film franchise, that’s ultimately the reason why everything is still awesome.