When The Lego Movie was released in 2014, it was an overwhelming success with both audiences and critics which used the popular toy line as a jumping off point to tell an amusing and visually inventive story.
Five years and two spin-offs later, a direct sequel is now upon us. Unfortunately, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part does not recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle success of its predecessor. Despite investigating childlike concepts of creativity and playtime, the first film felt relatively mature in its ideas and execution. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the sequel’s attempt to cater more to younger audiences, it’s a creative decision that undoubtedly weakens the film’s comedic thrust.
Set five years after our hero Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) saves Bricksburg from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), the Duplo invaders have since turned their idyllic city into a post-apocalyptic wasteland renamed Apocalypseburg.
A new alien threat emerges as General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) kidnaps Emmet’s girlfriend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) along with other citizens of their town and takes them far away to the Systar System. After Emmet crosses paths with intergalactic hero Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt) and his crew of talking velociraptors, they launch a rescue mission to recover their friends from the shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish).
The Lego Movie’s directing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have returned to write this follow-up, but in the director’s chair this time around is Mike Mitchell, who helmed the Dreamworks hit Trolls a few years back. This change might seem inconsequential, but the impact is evident, as the overbearingly bright color palette and more juvenile tone of that film is on full display for The Lego Movie 2.
The story is generally one-dimensional until the third act, during which its message about altruism amid trying circumstances is laid on so thick that I felt like I was getting sprayed with a pathos fire hose.
With their work on the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Jump Street films, Lord and Miller have established their own brand of meta humor that pokes fun at the tropes of their respective franchises. They use the same approach with the screenplay this time around, as when Rex Dangervest unveils his heroic tools like the CPD (Convenient Plot Device) and the Implausitron.
While they do occasionally land some nice one-liners in the process, the jokes on a whole just don’t seem as fresh as in Lord and Miller’s previous work. Perhaps I’ve grown a bit weary of self-aware humor as of late, but it’s also possible that the writing duo just didn’t put in quite as much effort this time around.
The film also relies more heavily on pop music and musical numbers to keep the energy high, but nothing quite matches the infectious exuberance of The Lego Movie’s “Everything Is Awesome.” There is an attempt to recreate the first film’s earworm in the appropriately titled “Catchy Song,” but its claim that “this song is gonna get stuck inside your head” feels like more a threat than an invitation.
Beck and the comedy trio The Lonely Island fare better on an end credits song that may be the film’s peak in terms of comedic innovation. Sadly, it’s a reminder of the lost opportunities that precede it which make The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part a mild disappointment.
Also coming to theaters this weekend
Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Dern, tells the tale of a vengeful snowplow driver up against a drug cartel after his son is murdered.
The Prodigy, starring Taylor Schilling and Jackson Robert Scott, centers around a mother who begins to suspect that her brilliant young son may be possessed.
What Men Want, starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, is a gender-swapped remake of the Mel Gibson film What Women Want that follows a woman who is able to hear men’s inner thoughts.
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July 11 • Foellinger Theatre