When The LEGO Movie was released back in 2014, its success was, fair to say, something of a surprise to a lot of moviegoers. Based on a cash-cow toy franchise made up of several disparate lines without a clear narrative focus to home in on, it’s a movie that shouldn’t have worked. But, in the hands of writer/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it did work – thanks to a unique mix of childlike imagination, out-there storytelling, clever pop-culture references, luscious visuals and a wonderfully meta last-act twist that hit many adults in the audience right in the feels. In fact, everything was pretty awesome.
So, after the interim LEGO Batman Movie, we now have the official Second Part (the film’s original subtitle). And while writer/producers Lord and Miller have vacated the director’s chair this time around – Trolls’ Mike Mitchell does the honours here – their stamp is still all over the finished product.
The LEGO Movie 2 takes much of what made the first film successful and builds on it – the story tangents are often more surreal, the references come thick and fast, the animation is top-notch. Its biggest stumbling block, though, is that it’s lost the element of surprise.
To the story, then. It’s been five years since the destructive DUPLO invaders crashed down in Bricksburg, and Master Builder Emmet (Chris Pratt) and co are now residing in the dusty wasteland of Apocalypseburg. Everything is not awesome, as Emmet’s girlfriend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) growls – not that it’s dented Emmet’s seemingly limitless optimism.
But the town soon faces a new threat when General Mayhem (Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz) swoops down from outer space to kidnap Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett) and the gang and take them to her leader – Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), a sinister shape-shifter who claims she wants to unite their two worlds. It’s left to Emmet to mount a rescue mission, teaming up with space rogue Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) – a cooler, broodier doppelganger of himself – to bring his pals back. But in order to save the day, he’s going to have to grow up, get real and learn to become a “Master Destroyer”…
After the surprise real-world reveal at the end of the last movie, there was nowhere really for the sequel to go other than to embrace that element and weave it more closely – and more immediately – into the plot. And so we get to see a lot more of the human siblings – the now teenage Finn (Jadon Sand) and a more grown-up Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), who are at war themselves. If the first film was about fathers and sons, this one is about brothers and sisters – and the trials of growing up together.
Having Finn and Bianca serve as dual story architects for the LEGO world is an interesting conceit, especially when it plays around with the idea of who is actually the real “villain”. But it also muddies the narrative waters – resulting in a film that feels less streamlined than the first – and carries less emotional weight, too. The LEGO Movie’s ending was one of the great cinematic rug-pulls, but that door is now open; while cleverly seeded, the sequel’s real-world shenanigans just don’t have the same impact.
Still, while it doesn’t exactly break new ground, there’s loads to enjoy in The LEGO Movie 2. Like the first movie, the visual and narrative imagination on display is boundless, echoing the LEGO sentiment that you can literally build anything you can set your mind to. From the Mad Max vibe of Apocalypseburg to the rainbow-tinged reaches of outer space, Lord and Miller push their more bizarre ideas even further this time out – and the animators really step up to accommodate them. More LEGO lines are added to the toolbox – the best new additions being Dangervest’s Jurassic World-riffing crew of velociraptor companions – while the likeable voice cast is, as ever, game for a laugh.
The film also has its fair share of knowing gags – mostly at the expense of Warner Bros’ big-screen DC properties, although there are a few good-natured pokes at Marvel and Disney, too. And while some of the supporting characters feel a bit short-changed, Arnett’s LEGO Batman again steals many of the best lines – his petty feud with LEGO Superman (Channing Tatum) continues to pay comic dividends, while his gruff duet with Haddish’s Watevra Wa-Nabi, Gotham City Guys, in which he rap-references all of the onscreen Batmen that have come before him, provides one of the film’s musical highlights.
So, while The LEGO Movie 2 might not feel as fresh as the original, it’s still a funny, visually impressive and commendably eccentric follow-up. One word of warning, though: as potentially annoying as it may be, the film’s theme tune – aptly titled Catchy Song – will get stuck inside your head. After several in-film reprises, there’s no fighting it…
The Lego Movie 2 is in UK cinemas now. You can read about the coolest tie-in LEGO kits from the film here.