My desire to see 2014’s “The Lego Movie” was on par with my wish to step on a Lego brick in my bare feet. How could a movie starring plastic, singing mini figs possibly appeal to anyone who graduated Saturday morning cartoons decades ago? But I’m a professional so I put my bias of toy story movies aside and went to the screening.
Later, as I left the theatre humming “Everything is Awesome” I was own over. Directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had pulled off something great, they made a movie with wide appeal using the Legos as a muse to do what the bricks have always done, light imaginations on fire.
Question is, five years later will everything be awesome in the sequel “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”?
The last movie ended with the revelation that the movie’s Lego Land frenetic action had actually taken place in 8-year-old Finn’s (Jadon Sand) imagination. The new one focuses on Finn’s sister Bianca (“The Florida Project’s” Brooklyn Prince) disrupting her brother’s carefully built world of fancy with her Duplo-Block creations.
In the make-believe world Duplo aliens, led by shape-shifting villain Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) declare war on Bricksburg. Fast-forward five years. Optimistic construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Master Builder Lucy’s (Elizabeth Banks) home is now a smoking ruin called Apocalypseburg where if you show any weakness you will be destroyed. Dave is now called Chainsaw Dave and Sewer Babies live under the streets.
When Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day) and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) are kidnapped and transported to the Systar System by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) Emmet and intergalactic archaeologist / Snake Plissken look-a-like Rex Dangervest (Pratt again) set off to rescue them. “Don’t worry Lucy,” says Emmett, “everything will still be awesome.”
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” is a pure pop art blast as though designed by kids. A mix of non-sequiturs, silly jokes, attention deficit editing, CPDs (Convenient Plot Devices) and music it zips along but isn’t as awesome as the original. The first film was a powerhouse of imagination and adventure. “The Second Part” has its moments—like the “Catchy Song” sequence—but feels like a dim bulb that doesn’t burn as brightly as it once did.
Like the first film the mayhem of Lego Land is tempered with real life lessons. In this case it takes an existential turn in the last third, expanding the mini fig story to shine a light on the fraught relationship between Finn and Bianca and their struggle to find a way to play together. When they learn to be kind and tolerant of one another their lives improve, as do those of their plastic figures.
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’s” convoluted third reel paints the screen with too much frenetic CGI action but maintains the lesson of the first film, that NOT putting away childish things, like Lego blocks, is the key to making everything awesome, no matter what age. That the message doesn’t feel like a commercial for the brightly coloured blocks is a pleasant plus even if the movie feels like diminished returns.