Except for one important element, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part has pretty much everything that the original film had. The jokes are still funny, the largely new cast of characters is integrated well, the framing story may just be even better than the original’s. No surprise there; Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote and directed the first movie, remain on board as the screenwriters. What’s missing is the extreme pace that made The Lego Movie such a visceral experience and kept it from being too messagey. Mike Mitchell (of Shrek Forever After and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked) has replaced them in the director’s chair, and while he doesn’t do too badly, he can’t replace their espresso-fueled energy or their verve. It does make a difference.
The story picks up five years after the events of The Lego Movie, as the aliens from Planet Duplo have reduced Bricksburg and the other Lego worlds to a dystopian pile of rubble. This has had little effect on the sunny disposition of Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt). However, when the aliens kidnap most of Emmet’s friends from the original, he’s forced onto his own resources, with Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) off having his stand-alone adventure and Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) taking a vacation. Fortunately, adventurer and raptor trainer Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt) comes into his life to help Emmet save his friends and fulfill his destiny.
It’s hard for me to discuss this without giving too much away, but Rex serving as an alter ego for Emmet dovetails cleverly with the alien queen (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) being a much more complicated villain than she first appears, as well as with Lucy a.k.a. Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) having her own run-ins with a mysterious robot warrior (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). In addition to illustrating how easily a sweet guy like Emmet can turn into a jerk like Rex, the story also allows for a nifty running gag with Lucy repeatedly meeting Bruce Willis (who voices the Lego version of himself) doing action-hero stuff. “I spend a lot of time in air ducts,” says Bruce, before adding unconvincingly, “I don’t live here.” The film boasts some musical numbers sung by Haddish, who does fine with the singing, but the centerpiece is a worthy successor to “Everything Is Awesome,” a mesmerizingly terrible “Catchy Song” by Dillon Francis, T-Pain, and That Girl Lay Lay. All told, The Lego Movie 2 did make me laugh out loud enough times to recommend it. I just wish it had a little more chaos to give it the original’s sugar high.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Voices by Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks. Directed by Mike Mitchell. Written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Rated PG.