The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
Manic sequel builds on the original’s clever legacy
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
Directed by Mike Mitchell
Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish
If history has taught us anything, it’s that movies based on toys are rarely any good. Masters of the Universe, Dungeons & Dragons, Transformers, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Bratz: The Movie, Battleship and Max Steel are all films that … exist. So when The LEGO Movie was announced in 2014, most audiences had reason for skepticism. A toy with no inherent story or setting or characters? What is that gonna look like in movie form? It sounds like a cynical cash grab based solely on name-brand familiarity. You might as well make a live-action movie about Hot Wheels (which Warner Bros. is doing, by the way) or Candy Land (which Columbia Pictures is doing). But, lo and behold, writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller turned The LEGO Movie into a surprisingly energetic, thoughtful and hilarious rumination on its injection-molded source material. Seriously. You forget how good that film was. Go watch it again. Right now. It’s damn near perfect.
But there’s no way lightning could strike twice, could it? How could you follow up on the first film’s imaginative blending of fantasy and reality? How could a sequel possibly match up to what the original pulled off? Well, believe it or not, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part comes awfully close to meeting what amounts to some very high expectations. It’s surprising, funny, original and emotional. And like its predecessor, it’s a perfect film for kids and parents alike.
It’s been five years since we last left LEGO construction worker Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and pals in Bricksburg. Seems that the LEGO DUPLO invaders who showed up rather amusingly at the end of the previous film have stuck around, returning time and again to wreak havoc with the orderly construction of Bricksburg. But as it turns out, not even having Bricksburg transformed into a “heckish” post-apocalyptic junkheap can spoil Emmet’s sunny optimism. It’s only when his pals Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Benny (Charlie Day) are kidnapped by the aliens and spirited off into space that Emmet decides it’s time to get tough (or at least his own eternally upbeat form of tough).
Like the original, The Second Part works on multiple levels. It’s even faster-paced and more colorful than the original. The songs are ridiculously, intentionally ear-catching. (Prophetic sample title: “The Song That Will Get Stuck Inside Your Head.”) Kids will be dazzled by it. But the subtle story underneath it all is both sweet and meaningful. Whereas the first was a fantasy-filled metaphor for the battle between rule-following and creative freedom (a debate that hits at the very heart of the construction toy), the second centers on the concept of change and the power of “breaking” versus “building.” Grown-ups, having seen the first film, will probably figure out the reality behind this film’s central metaphor long before it’s revealed. But that undercuts none of the brilliance or heartfelt emotion.
At this point, a number of LEGO spinoffs (The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie) have taught us what to expect here. There are the funny cameos (yes, that’s Jason Mamoa as Aquaman), the winking pop cultural parodies (Hot Tub Time Machine?) and the deep-dive toy mythology going on (your awareness of the LEGO Friends playsets lends an added sense of amusement to several scenes). For some, The LEGO Movie 2 may lack the unexpected surprise of the first, out-of-the-box outing. That’s unavoidable with a sequel. But The Second Part continues to evolve over the course of its zippy runtime, amping up everything that was great in the original by a degree or two. What starts out as a simple rescue mission on the part of its hero soon warps into a hilariously complicated pileup of ideas, references, self-aware jokes and general nonsense.
Other movies based on toys, videogames, comic books, etc. would do well to pay attention to what this film pulls off. The filmmakers haven’t simply found a workable story to wrap around the basic IP. They’ve fully embraced what people love about the product. In Transformers, the Transformers are no longer toys clearly connected to the thing that we played with as kids and that our kids play with in turn. In The LEGO Movie 2, the LEGO minifigs are both sentient characters and actual toys at the same time. It’s a vivid reminder of why and how and where and when people love LEGOs. Stick around through the end credits—not merely for the ridiculously on-the-nose song by Beck and Lonely Island, but for a bunch of photos of real kids and their unique LEGO creations.
LEGOs are about imagination, about building things up and breaking them down and starting all over again. They’re whatever you want them to be (to steal a theme from the film). Happily, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is exactly what we, the audience, want it to be: More of the same. And more. Plus glitter.