“THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART” — 2½ stars — PG (some rude humor); in general release; running time: 106 minutes
I divide time into two categories: BLM (before “The Lego Movie”) and ALM (after “The Lego Movie”). And yes, I can hardly believe we’re already in the Year of Our Lego 5 ALM. Time flies when everything is awesome.
In those five years, “The Lego Movie” grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide and spawned two spinoffs, “The Lego Batman Movie” and “The Lego Ninjago Movie.” The franchise’s aesthetics, rapid-fire comedic timing and appeal to both kids and adults have made it inescapable.
That cultural cachet also brings big expectations — expectations the viewer can’t help but place on the franchise’s new film, “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.”
Yes, “The Lego Movie 2” is a sequel to the original: same central cast, continuation of the original’s storyline, etc. Tonally, though, it feels like less of a sequel than “The Lego Batman Movie” did — this new movie tries to be slightly more mature and slightly less madcap than what came before it. And, like a kid transitioning out of childhood, the results are awkward sometimes.
At the start of “The Lego Movie 2,” audiences are dropped into Apocalypseburg, a gritty wasteland where the previous film’s characters now live. When the humans (Will Ferrell as Dad, Jadon Sand as his son, Finn) let Finn’s younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) use their Lego playroom, the once-thriving city of Bricksburg gets destroyed, and Apocalypseburg is born.
Emmet Brickowski, the goody-two-shoes Lego voiced by Chris Pratt, doesn’t seem to mind. While all the other Legos have adopted Mad Max personas — his counterpart, the vigilante Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), describes Apocalypseburg as “a heckish place to live” — Emmet remains upbeat and existentially unbothered. For him, everything is still awesome.
Tackling the “gritty sequel” cliche right out of the gate was a great idea, but the film sputters as it tries establishing a less zany comedic style. Viewers are left waiting for jokes that just aren’t there. A script that eases audiences into this tonal change might have been more effective.
Back to Apocalypseburg, though: A high-tech alien spaceship visits the city, capturing Lucy, Batman and a handful of the city’s other heroic Legos. They’re taken to a mysterious royal wedding in the Systar System (aka Bianca’s bedroom), but Emmet is left behind. The abductor doesn’t think Emmet is heroic enough to join them. Thus the hero’s journey begins. Emmet must save his friends, prove to Lucy and himself that he’s more than just an upbeat builder and prevent the dreaded “Our-mom-ageddon” prophecy (where mom puts all the Legos in storage).Comment on this story
“The Lego Movie 2” attempts quite a lot. For one, it switches between the Lego and human worlds much more than its predecessor, attempting to weave separate plots from these two worlds into a cohesive whole. (It also incorporates a time travel subplot, because why not.) Beyond that, the sequel frequently acknowledges the audience’s own expectations, using metahumor to try diffusing it. And, like any sequel, it tries giving audiences what they love while also introducing new things the audience didn’t know they wanted — all while appealing to kids, teens and adults in equal measure. That’s a tall order.
There’s still a lot to like about this movie. When the gags, pop culture references and self-effacing humor land, it’s really good. And its central messages about change and friendship are worthwhile. As a whole, though, the movie’s storytelling ambitions feel way too big for the actual source material.
Sequels are almost never as good as the original. “The Lego Movie 2” is no exception. In this case, it wasn’t for lack of trying.