Honestly, I’m still baffled that somehow Warner Bros. managed to take a kid’s toy building product and turn it into arguably one of the most popular animated franchises on the market today, and yet here we are with ANOTHER LEGO movie. Now I’m not saying the LEGO movies are bad. Of three films even the underwhelming “Ninjago” movie had some merit. But it is intriguing how popular the franchise is to the point where the sequel to the original “The LEGO Movie” is one of the biggest box office draws of the year so far. A lot of people are turning out for this follow-up and who could blame them. The first film managed to surpass the expectations of simply being a feature length advertisement to dish up some neat self-aware humor and fun characters. With that said between the high quality original film and the excellent “The LEGO Batman Movie”, “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” has huge shoes to fill to continue the franchise’s cinematic success. How well does this follow-up live up to those expectations? Let’s break it down shall we? This is my review of “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part”.
This sequel picks up looking at the five years following the events in the first film. Finn (the human owner of the LEGOs once again played by Jadon Sand) is forced to share his playtime with his sister Bianca (Brooklyn Prince) who introduces Duplo Block figures to Bricksburg leading to a post-apocalyptic wasteland known now as Apocalypseburg. Despite the world around him embracing a darker reality, Master Builder Emmet (Chris Pratt) continues to be his bubbly self while his love interest Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) tries to get him to grow up. Emmet experiences a dream foretelling of a real apocalypse that threatens him and his friends. As the brother and sister relationship in the real world begins to impact the LEGO world a new being called General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) captures Wyldstyle, Batman and other Master Builders bringing them to the world of the Systar System ruled by the shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) whose motives are questioned by the residents of Apocalypseburg. Emmet realizes events of his premonition are coming true and sets out to save his friends meeting a new character named Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt) who agrees to help in the mission as the fate of the entire LEGO community hangs in the balance.
The neat thing about “The LEGO Movie 2” is that a lot of the original cast is back for another go and it’s like they never left. The original movie was a charming introduction to the tone and personality of this creative toy-based world and the voice actors waste no time getting right back into character and bringing us back into this imaginative reality once more. Chris Pratt is as charming as ever as Emmet while also serving as the voice for a new character Rex Dangervest who represents an amalgamation of Pratt’s previous big screen characters as well as the polar opposite personality type to Emmet. Pratt is clearly having a good time while much of the rest of the cast brings a more serious approach to the project to fit the apocalyptic setting, including Elizabeth Banks who is once again amazing as Wyldstyle as she attempts to level out Emmet’s more childish personality. Will Arnett returns as LEGO Batman, who he played in his own movie a couple years back and plays a larger role in this story too serving as a scene stealing secondary character. The highlights though are the new characters including Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi who proves that just because we can’t see this modern comedy queen on screen that doesn’t mean she’s less effective. She totally owns this role and is by far my favorite new character in the film although we spend much of the picture unsure of her intentions. The whole cast is just on point as everyone brings out the unique charm their characters offer and remind us why this series, and the product its based on, have become to endearing.
But there’s so much more to “The LEGO Movie 2” than just great voice acting. The animation is spectacular building on (no pun intended) the style of previous entries to give us a unique world that feels inventive, colorful, inviting and unpredictable. This is a movie about a toy property meant to capture imaginations and it completely owns that concept by embracing the endless possibilities that LEGOs as a brand was made to inspire. There’s so much going on in this movie and it hardly ever takes time to breath yet every character, ever backdrop and every subplot feels fully fleshed out through song, slick script writings and careful attention to detail and timing. This is the same compliment many gave “The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Batman Movie” but considering how much “The LEGO Movie 2” covers in less than two hours I can say that this film succeeds in doing what many sequels fail to do. It takes what worked before it and what many loved about its predecessors and improves on it spectacularly, upping the ante and taking new risks while never losing sight of why everything worked so well in the first place. There’s so much about this film that makes it a near perfect cinematic sequel and that’s a strange thing for me to be able to say about a series made pretty much to advertise an endless array of building-block style figures.
But I think that’s why this series in general works so well. The “LEGO” franchise has spent more time on story and character development than I think anyone expected it to with the only real low point being “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” which felt more like the feature length advertisement many expected these films to become. Thankfully “The LEGO Movie 2” is more in line with the first two entries in the series and feels much less like a moving billboard and more like a legitimate, significant and entertaining story that just happens to be based on products you can buy. Not once did I feel like I was being begged to buy LEGOs and yet I was fascinated by just how well this sequel continues to capture the imagination of kids like myself when we tried to bring our own worlds to life with these simple toys. Warner Bros. could have phoned this entire series in and it probably still would have been a success, driving up sales of the toys while also making big box office bucks. But in a surprising twist the “LEGO” franchise proves it belongs on the big screen with legitimately insightful storylines that are meant to inspire.
And speaking of story I loved that “The LEGO Movie 2” not only provides some amazing insightful and self-referential comedy that both kids and adults could appreciate (seriously I lost count of the character cameos and fun in-jokes spread throughout the film) it also tackles some hard hitting and rather mature life lessons that I think are very appropriate for not only the target demographic but maybe the parents as well. The main underlying theme of the film is the fine line between maturity and the inner-child, especially through the character of Emmet who feels the only way he can prove his value is by being less childish and embracing a more cynical nature. It’s a neat theme that tackles the idea of personal growth and the impact the state of the world or the people around you can have on one’s own perspective of maturity and adulthood. This ends up being a huge part of the finale that shows the consequences of holding yourself to the standards of others instead of embracing who you want to be. It’s a very touching message that’s handled perfectly thanks to a really cool twist in the final act. Meanwhile there’s an even more hidden message that I won’t delve too much into here to avoid spoilers, but “The LEGO Movie 2” also subtly touches on the differences in cultures and the impact of first impressions. There’s just so much that young viewers can learn from this story and despite its quick pace “The LEGO Movie 2” makes its points heard loud and clear in a way that everyone can appreciate without pandering or hitting the nail too hard on the head.
If I had to pick out flaws with “The LEGO Movie 2” I think the one thing that maybe bugged me more than anything else is some of the more cliché jokes that just don’t land the same as the more original attempts at comedy. We get some moments like a joke about the pain of stepping on LEGOs that feel a bit more “bottom of the barrel” and predictable than the rest of the film and while they fit the movie’s sense of humor, they feel more forced than the rest of the material. The musical numbers can be a bit grading but honestly, they didn’t annoy me as much as I thought they would. At times they can feel like padding, but in the end they do work well with he tone and self-referential humor of the picture and, like the hit song “Everything is Awesome” that was released with the first film, they’re designed to stick with and annoy you to a certain degree which is part of the film’s charm. Otherwise the only thing I could pick out that might impact your experience is the pacing. Now I already complimented how fast this film moves, but I acknowledge that while I enjoyed it this is a picture that leaves very little time to take everything in from moment to moment. All of the other films also employ this approach so if you’ve seen the previous three movies you know what you’re getting into, but if you’re not as used to this nonstop take to kid-friendly storytelling “The LEGO Movie 2” might be a little rough as it asks you to absorb and follow a lot and appreciate numerous references and details with very little time to fully experience everything it has to offer. If that doesn’t bother you then “The LEGo Movie 2” will be a fun experience with a lot to appreciate.
So, to put it simply if you’ve seen and liked the previous “LEGO” movies this sequel will give you everything you want and more and might be my favorite film in the franchise so far. The voice acting is spot on with both returning and new cast members are clearly having a ball with this project. The animation is even better than the already spectacular visuals of previous films and the story moves at a brisk pace that keep the energy consistent even if it might annoy some who are unfamiliar with its approach. The comedy is hilarious, especially the self-referential humor, the references are so much fun to pick out, and the themes explored in the narrative are not only timely but are actually timeless as they ask the audience, young and old, to challenge the limitations and true meaning of of maturity, identity, self-growth and the possibilities of our imaginations. It’s so odd that a movie based on a long-standing real life toy can be this entertaining and insightful and yet still manage to capture the fun and charm that LEGOs have evoked in youngsters and, frankly, adults for generations so perfectly. This franchise surprises me with every new entry and “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” proves that it will only continue to surprise and entertain. It’s an awesome viewing experience that speaks to the child in us all as well as the cynical adults we think we have to be and the result is a near perfect sequel and the first great animated treasure of 2019.