Movie Review: The LEGO Movie 2 – The Second Part
The absurdist edge and creative intelligence that made the first LEGO movie a masterpiece is eclipsed by shallow self-awareness and plastic brick branding, but the Second Part still builds a world of enchantment by piecing together sibling rivalries with heart.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
Featuring the voices of: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Running time: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: Parental Guidance
By Katherine Monk
Remember when everything was awesome? Back when the world smelled like a brand new block of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and “plastics” didn’t seem intrinsically sinister?
Sigh. It’s been five years since that first huff of oil byproduct fuelled the first LEGO Movie, offering us a film that was able to fuse the creative world of childhood with the duller, darker and decidedly more dangerous world of adults. Since then, other LEGO assemblies have hit the multiplex with kid-empowering messages, but the brand’s power boost came from the 2014 creative coup from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller that offered up optimistic construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt), and his quest to save the town of Bricksburg from the static force of plastic cement — a substance powerful enough to render all elements of Bricksburg unchangeable and fixed.
It’s been five years since that first huff of oil byproduct fuelled the first LEGO Movie, offering us a film that was able to fuse the creative world of childhood with the duller, darker and decidedly more dangerous world of adults.
Powered by several cups of coffee sweetened by 23 sugars, Emmet embodied the very best of the human condition as a creator, a builder and a good friend and neighbour. Yet, even though he managed to save Bricksburg in round one, the last frames of the LEGO Movie predicted a new threat: A baby sister with access to the LEGO in the basement.
This is where the new saga begins, as a new force called DUPLO threatens the citizens of Bricksburg. Larger, simpler and brightly coloured with big eyes, the DUPLOS terrify the small block citizens, who quickly scatter, and attempt to hide from their tireless, manga-eyed assaults.
Not even Batman and his multiple munitions can hinder DUPLO’s invasion. “I eat laser beams!” says a happy-faced DUPLO visitor in a sweet, lisping baby voice, responding to Batman’s violent barrage.
From that moment, the charm factor was impossible to deny. So were the film’s deeper, emotional intentions. Because in that somewhat disjointed opening salvo, we realize this is the story of a big sibling learning to love the interloper of a little sister.
Showing us more of the human side than we saw in the original, we’re re-introduced to Finn (Jadon Sand), the LEGO builder who spends hours in his basement creating vast, intricate landscapes. He doesn’t want to share his space, his toys or his precious blocks with his sister — and after the DUPLOs invade, he decides the only way to keep her away is to destroy the old city and create Apocalypseburg — a place that little girls would scorn as brown and black, and not glittery enough.
For the past five years, Emmet and Lucy and Batman have called Apocalypseburg home, and while it’s not quite as awesome as Bricksburg, they still have each other — until a new threat emerges in the form of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). A shape-shifting monarch with a penchant for all things pink, glittery and heart-shaped, the Queen kidnaps Batman and takes him to her magical kingdom past the dreaded “Stairgate.”
Welcome to the “Systar System” — a world with white bedspreads, happy hearts, and a palace of infinite self-reflection, re-education and celebrity wedding receptions. Indeed, the Queen wants to unite the upstairs and downstairs galaxies with a royal wedding, assembling all the pieces in one common kingdom of fun. Sounds lovely, but Emmet’s new buddy Rex Dangervest teaches Emmet to distrust this olive branch. He says love is for wimps, real men are dark and unemotional, and little sisters should mind their own business.
The tension and the emotional disconnect finally take their toll. The residents of Apocalypseburg and the Systar System start falling to pieces, and soon the black hole of the “Bin of Stor-Age” looms closer, threatening to put everyone in garage-shelf limbo.
The whole plot revolving around sibling acceptance works some dependable magic because what younger sibling hasn’t longed for playtime with their older counterpart? We turn to mush when we hear little sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) explain her hostage-taking of Batman with “I just wanted to play with you…” The feelings are real and relatable, but the script — still laden with LEGO puns, and a nice balance between grown-up references and kid goofiness — doesn’t quite click together with the same intellectual snap.
The whole plot revolving around sibling acceptance works some dependable magic because what younger sibling hasn’t longed for playtime with their older counterpart?
The absurd, existential, creative edge that really defined the first film has been replaced by something a little more ordinary, and far more predictable. Jokes are often pulled from pop culture and inside Hollywood references, but without depth. So what if we get a reference to Planet of the Apes? They don’t capitalize on it, or expand on the visual joke, so it just feels gratuitous and self-conscious. Even the new pop song feels too self-conscious, but that, too, is a wink. It’s called “This Song is Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head.’
The one theme that does work is the difference between girls’ and boys’ style of play. The girl universe is all sparkles, pinks and what LEGO calls its brand new “Vibrant Coral” colour. The girl world has dance music, stars, hearts and love. It endeavours to find and enhance beauty. The boy play world represented here does the opposite: It breaks, blackens, battles and destroys.
Director Mike Mitchell creates dynamic tension between these two gendered galaxies, both in tone and visuals. Yet, given how much rich emotional content was at hand, he could have done even more. All the pieces were there, he just needed to put them together with a little more love and imagination.
Main image: Emmet and General Mayhem have different styles of play, but share core pieces.
THE EX-PRESS, February 7, 2019