The LEGO Movie was a miracle. Before the film it opened it looked like an egregious example of crass cross promotion, a kids movie about toys with the express purpose of selling more toys. And yet the animated comedy from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was none of that. It was a celebration of the creative potential of the brick toys, yes, but it was also a thematically rich work of cinema, lampooning genre tropes with an irreverent wit. Five years later and now it’s time for The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, which sees Mike Mitchell directing a script by Lord and Miller (from a story by Lord, Miller, and Matthew Fogel). The LEGO Movie 2 is one of the rare sequels that surpasses the original. Once again, Lord and Miller have penned a thoughtful and hilarious comedy that works for children and adults.
The first film concluded with the heroes triumphant over President Business (Will Ferrell) when a new threat to Bricksburg emerges – monstrous creatures from Duplo. In the five years since, the Duplo invaders from the Systar System have laid waste to Bricksburg, leveling the LEGO metropolis into ruins and transforming it into Apocalypseburg. In a wild opening establishing this new adventure, The LEGO Movie 2 pays extensive homage to Mad Max: Fury Road, which I imagine is some kind of first for an animated children’s movie. The reality that the characters of The LEGO Movie 2 must confront is that everything’s not awesome.
Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), aka Wyldstyle, has perfected her brooding narration as she stares out into the distance of a civilization leveled by war. Meanwhile, Emmet (Chris Pratt) is just as upbeat and optimistic as ever. Lucy has accepted that the world has changed as Emmet thinks there’s a possible return to the past, even saying, “Make everything awesome again.” When the mysterious General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) comes swooping into Apocalypseburg and takes Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), the hyperactive spaceman Benny (Charlie Day), the pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and Unikitty (Alison Brie) to the Systar System, Emmet must undertake a whole new adventure to rescue his friends from the clutches of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Along his way to the Systar System, Emmet teams up with Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), an arrogant raptor-training adventurer of pure masculinity – the exact opposite of Emmet’s kindhearted goof.
Rex Dangervest is a wonderfully constructed character, one who seems to made up of the worst characteristics pulled from any number of Kurt Russell characters over the years. He is the embodiment of so many macho characters that have been on the screen as a kind of aspirational masculinity – a man with no regrets except one. It’s another example of Lord and Miller taking an archetype and wearing it down to its most basic elements, allowing the toxicity and absurdity that is an undercurrent to rise to the surface and mock it relentlessly. Through the character the film is able to take Emmet on a journey of self-discovery, one where he has to confront his optimism as a weakness before embracing it as a strength.
Trapped on the Systar System, Lucy is suspicious of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi thanks in part to a song performed by the shape-shifting block of royalty. Music once again plays a big role in The LEGO Movie 2, and Lucy is dismayed when the “Catchy Song” basically brainwashes her friends. The “Catchy Song” is the sequel’s answer to “Everything is Awesome,” an infectious pop melody that will find itself stuck inside your head for days after the movie is over. Lucy and Emmet fear that whatever scheme Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi is up to will result in armomageddon, a cataclysmic event that will end LEGO life as we know it.
The LEGO Movie 2 has a framing device much like the first one, only this time Finn (Jadon Sand) has to deal with his sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) in what amounts to a battle of imaginations. Lord and Miller’s script with Mike Mitchell’s direction really toy with audience expectations, and this creates a fascinating aspect of the sequel where the sibling rivalry brings out a strong theme about the perils of unchecked masculinity. Lord and Miller are modern masters of filmmaking because they’re keenly aware of just how ingrained these tropes are in the minds of audiences and they use that knowledge to flip expectations on the audience. Here is no different as The LEGO Movie 2 always finds a way to twist the assumptions made by its characters and the audience.
Amazingly, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is also a miracle. It builds upon everything that was great upon the first and pushes it forward. Between The LEGO Movie and its sequel as well as the brilliant character deconstruction of The LEGO Batman Movie (I haven’t seen The LEGO Ninjago Movie), it’s pretty apparent that LEGO’s brand of animated comedy is become a powerful rival to Disney and Pixar’s dominance in the field. The jokes are brilliant. The animation is spectacular. The themes are resonant. In the five years since The LEGO Movie, we’ve all come to accept the reality that everything’s not awesome. But The LEGO Movie 2 is most certainly awesome and will be one of the year’s best animated films, if not just one of the year’s best films.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
- Overall Score
Picking up where The LEGO Movie left off, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is another animated triumph, a thematically rich and hilarious work scripted by the brilliant minds of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.