Movie Review – 14 Thoughts About The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

SPOILER WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WARNER BROS. PICTURES’ NEW FILM THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART

My whole family loved The LEGO Movie.

It looked amazing, the story was fantastic, and all of those pop culture icons crossing over with each other was mind-blowing. We’ve watched it several times, we bought the sets, and we played the video game. That movie wildly exceeded our expectations, but it wasn’t just because it was better than it had any right to be, it was because it’s a legitimately great movie.

That was five years ago.

My son is eleven now and, like many formerly favorite toy lines (RIP Imaginext), LEGO isn’t on his radar like it used to be. He was still excited about the movie and the tie-in video game, but our level of immersion into the worlds of LEGO just isn’t what it was in 2014. As a result I haven’t really been as excited about this sequel. Watching your children grow up is wonderful but also brutal, and each passing day brings more reminders that things will never be the way they were.

In short, everything is not awesome.

Another factor in my lack of excitement for The LEGO Movie 2 is that sequels to family films tend to not be very good. The decline in quality is typically pretty severe, even more so than other types of films. On top of that I didn’t particularly love The LEGO  Batman Movie and I thought The LEGO Ninjago Movie was absolutely terrible.

I still had hope for this sequel – after all, the writers of the original movie were back where they belonged – but I can’t say I was genuinely excited beyond the fact that I knew we were going to see it as a family. And family events are always something I look forward to.

Did Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring it once again? Was it even possible for this sequel to live up to the excellent standard set by the original? Read on and find out!

1 – It’s A Thinker – Believe it or not, I’ve been contemplating this movie since I walked out of the theater. As soon as the credits rolled I knew I liked it, but I’ve had to turn it over in my brain and examine the events and the themes and really think on it to realize just how darn good it was.

This is not a simple adventure movie. The LEGO Movie 2 is an examination of character, relationships, and the inevitability of change.

I am not kidding.

I realize that could be applied to most movies, especially your better family films, but Lord and Miller have woven truly powerful themes into the outrageous silliness so well that you almost don’t realize your heart is being moved. Don’t get me wrong – there are a few scenes where the characters might as well turn to the camera and say “Message”, a la Keenan Ivory Wayans in Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. But those are mostly the parts featuring the human cast, which I’ll get to shortly.

2 – Everything Looks Awesome – But not too awesome.

Sometimes – especially with a five year gap between films – the advances in technology are apparent and it’s a bit jarring to see the differences. Watch Toy Story and Toy Story 2 back to back and you’ll see what I mean. And those were only four years apart.

While The LEGO Movie 2 feels bigger, wilder, and more action-packed in many ways, it lines up visually with the original. The characters look exactly the same and, well, LEGO bricks still look like LEGO bricks.

I’m sure there were huge advances that aren’t immediately apparent and I’ll be very curious to see any behind-the-scenes materials once the home version comes out, but there’s nothing as jarring as, say, Buzz’s mouth moving entirely differently.

Like I said, though, this is a bigger movie with some mind-boggling sequences. Just like the original, you almost get distracted from the story-related action by things like identifying individual LEGO bricks as they fly by. And I mean that in the best way.

3 – Everything is Streamlined – Despite the big action – of which there is plenty, despite the huge laughs – of which there are many, despite the bonkers LEGO banana man – of which there is one whom we don’t see nearly enough, this is a movie very much focused on characters. Specifically Emmet Brickowski and Lucy (Wyldstyle).

If I had heard about how much Batman, Benny, Metalbeard, and Unikitty had been pushed aside beforehand I would have been disappointed. But in the context of the movie and the story being told it was the absolute best decision. And don’t get me wrong – those characters still feature in the story and have plenty of fun. But they are the supporting cast, no way around it.

In the end this was a brilliant decision because we already know as much as we need to know about Batman. We learned his idiosyncrasies in the first movie and got more than we wanted of them in his solo film. Benny basically just gets excited about spaceships and there’s not much more to do with him than that. It was fun in the original, but he would have been tedious as a featured player in this sequel.

The bottom line is that the rest of the cast are fun, one-note supporting characters while Emmet and Lucy are the protagonists they’re there to interact with. The movie doesn’t try to make them more than they are, but it also doesn’t just rehash all of their funny bits from The LEGO Movie.

4 – Continuity is Awesome – Sometimes sequels play a little loose with where the original film left off. How many times have you watched a follow-up and noticed that events are ignored or characters don’t seem to have progressed logically or some key element has been changed or ignored just for the sake of the new story being told?

This does not happen with The LEGO Movie 2. The events strictly follow what we saw at the end of the first movie and I was both happy and surprised to see that. If you recall, Finn – the live action boy who created the world in which the movies take place – resolved his issues with his dad. And then his sister, Bianca, was introduced along with her Duplo invaders.

The inhabitants of Bricksburg are faced with massive, baby-talking Duplo creations as the movie ended.

The sequel follows those events exactly and it’s wonderful. Five years have passed and Bricksburg has become Apocalypseburg, a reflection of both Bianca’s inclusion in Finn’s play and of Finn’s growth into adolescence. Everything is grim and serious now, with a grittier tone replacing the world’s former whimsy. Only Emmet remains a bastion of hope and innocence.

I’m telling you guys – as the father of an eleven-year-old there’s some tough stuff in this one.

5 – Live Action is… Mostly Okay – One of the concerns I had about a sequel to The LEGO Movie was that it couldn’t possibly be as fun now that the veil had been lifted. Even during the first movie once the reveal about the live action world was made it took a little shine off of things for me, despite the fact that it was a brilliant device and gave the movie itself an amazing depth.

Note: I do not in any way disagree with the choice to reveal that the world is Finn’s creation. It just changed my perception of everything and made it less fun, but overall better. I hate having to take things seriously.

The LEGO world sequences are all still wonderful. The addition of Bianca’s invaders adds a new element and manages to be a compelling mystery even though we know where they’re from. Despite knowing about the real world, why they’re doing what they’re doing and how it will turn out is still a compelling story.

The live action stuff is necessary and isn’t bad, but it left me wanting to just get back to Emmet and his friends. The young actors do a fine job and Will Ferrell’s voice is as funny as you’d expect, but they should’ve reigned Maya Rudolph (the kids’ mother) in a bit.

I love Maya Rudolph. She’s a genuine superstar and everything she does is hilarious, but she was a little too much for this role. She’s not even in the movie for long, but her comedy is too big. If they want to make a movie about Maya Rudolph: Mom Who Steps on LEGO Bricks and Reacts I am there for it, but for the purposes of The LEGO Movie 2 her scenes took me out of it a little bit.

It was like if Will Ferrell had been Ricky Bobby in the first movie. It was too much.

6 – Princess Unikitty is Awesome – Yes, the supporting cast takes somewhat of a backseat here, but Princess Unikitty has some amazing scenes. Right from the start we see a new form that’s part Battle Cat and part Dinobot. Any time Unikitty is on screen it’s pretty awesome.

7 – Predictability is… Mostly Okay – If you’ve seen the trailer for The LEGO Movie 2 then you know that in addition to Emmet, Chris Pratt also voices a new character called Rex Dangervest. This character is essentially Pratt doing a terrible impersonation of Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin, and it’s tremendous.

This character’s origin is one of the mysteries of the movie, but I knew what it was within about thirty seconds of him showing up. That’s okay, though, because the concept worked so well and was such a clever way to tell that part of the story that it didn’t lower my enjoyment one bit. As a matter of fact, I almost had more fun watching it unfold because I was able to appreciate the clever way they were telling the story rather than just trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

8 – Velociraptors are Awesome – Rex Dangervest works with a team of velociraptors. We see their reactions to things via subtitles and literally every scene with them is hilarious. They are the secret stars of this movie.

9 – Bruce Willis is Awesome – There had better be a Bruce Willis minifigure on the way.

10 – Sometimes Even Sparkly Vampires are Awesome – Bianca’s Duplo/LEGO Friends world is lots of fun and introduces all kinds of new elements into the movie, including an “attractive and non-threatening” sparkly vampire voiced by The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding.

11 – Putting This Entry Earlier Would Have Been Awesome – Before I got into specific characters I should’ve talked more about Bianca’s world, but I really love Noel Fielding and bonkers dancing bananas.

Finn’s younger sister has her own world made up of LEGO Friends and Duplo. It’s reminiscent of Cloud Cuckoo Land from The LEGO Movie, but less chaotic and more varied. There are many elements that aren’t even LEGO and this creates a whole new, alien feel that really reinforces the idea that Bricksburg is dealing with a truly foreign element.

Their leader, Tiffany Hadish’s Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, is a brilliant antagonist. She’s funny and weird and menacing and manages to be a true mystery right up until the reveal of her origin. And of course, that origin ends up being a wonderful surprise that ties the story together.

Oh, and she also wants to marry Batman.

12 – TOO REAL – There are scenes throughout the movie that take place in the LEGO world that are depicting how Finn and Bianca interact. Bianca’s invaders defy the carefully constructed logic and order that the older Finn has developed as he’s grown up.

When Finn plays on his own lasers take out enemies, destroyed vehicles stay destroyed until they can be repaired, and the world generally obeys the physics of our own world.

Bianca, being younger and having less of a grasp on reality, has her creations defy every law that Finn’s world observes. Her forces are nigh invulnerable. Missiles, lasers, and even Batarangs have no effect. The invaders will flatly deny a direct hit, even though it was clearly a killing blow.

I went through all of this with my son when he was younger. It’s completely irrational, but I used to get so frustrated by the exact stuff shown in this movie. I’d try to explain, over and over again, that there were rules and how things should work and that when Han shoots Boba Fett he should at least slow down for a second or that cars don’t fly or that if you have a gun you don’t have to run up and hit your enemy.

None of that stuff matters. What matters is that you’re spending time together. Which is one of the core messages of The LEGO Movie 2.

13 – Cameos are Awesome, But Not NecessaryThe LEGO Movie was overflowing with cameos and pop culture references. The sequel has plenty, but they feel more like natural parts of the film than, “Hey everyone – look at this thing you recognize!”

That might be one advantage of the big reveal of the original movie – we know this is a world of play, so the appearances of the Justice League or Velma from Scooby-Doo are fun without being the huge events they would have been in the first movie. And they’re treated as such, here – they’re all just part of the film.

Granted, the Justice League do play a major supporting role, but they’re just another part of the story and not treated as this huge event.

Here are a few of the fun celebrity voices that show up:

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman (returning from the first movie)

Channing Tatum as Superman (returning from the first movie)

Jonah Hill as Green Lantern (returning from the first movie)

Jason Momoa as Movie Aquaman (classic Aquaman also appears)

Will Forte as Abraham Lincoln

Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth (returning from The LEGO Batman Movie)

Ike Barinholtz as Lex Luthor

Ben Schwartz as Banarnar (the bonkers banana guy)

14 – This Movie is AwesomeThe LEGO Movie had so much going for it – visuals like we’d never seen before, pop culture crossovers like we’d never seen before, characters that were fresh and surprising, and a mind-bending third act reveal that was almost unprecedented in the arena of family films.

The LEGO Movie 2 had none of those thrilling surprises working for it. We saw all of that last time and were ready for it. We knew what we were getting. Except that we didn’t. Because the last thing I expected was a movie that relied on none of those things to get over.

Sure – we still had cameos and surprises, but this movie was all about story and characters. And that’s the only way it could work.

The LEGO Movie 2 might be one of the smartest follow-ups I have ever seen because the creators knew they couldn’t just throw out the same old stuff and create a quality experience. Sure – they could have just recycled the gimmicks of the first movie and doubled down on the wild elements, but they clearly take a lot of pride in what they’re doing and wanted to create a memorable and worthy successor to the landmark film they created five years ago. And they succeeded wonderfully.

After several recent disappointments in animated sequels, I am more than happy to give The LEGO Movie 2 my recommendation and tell you to take your friends, family, and whoever to see this awesome movie in the theater as soon as you can!

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