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Friday, February 08, 2019

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

I can honestly say that 2014's The Lego Movie stands as one of my favorite Hollywood animated films of the decade.  It was that rare blockbuster that actually exceeded expectations, and ended up being much smarter and flat-out hilarious than it had any right to be, considering it was a feature length toy commercial.  Walking into The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, I knew that there was no way it could capture the imagination and surprise of the original, and I was right.  But it still manages to be a lot of fun.  Maybe a bit messier and not as well thought out, but still fun.

Most of the cast and memorable characters from the original are back here, although I sorely missed my favorite character from before, the memorable Good Cop/Bad Cop, who does not get to play a role in this story.  The same creative minds behind the first, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, are also back, although they're just credited to the screenplay this time around, with Mike Mitchell (Trolls) in the director's chair.  The movie also has as many cameos and as much pop culture knowledge as before.  The only thing holding this movie back is the lack of surprise.  We didn't know what to expect walking in last time, but we do this time.  Don't get me wrong, the movie lives up to our expectations.  It's just not quite as stunning or as surprisingly human and emotional as before.  This is an effective and entertaining movie, but it doesn't feel as special as before.  It was bound to happen with a sequel to a movie that seemed so daring for an animated family film.

The film picks up at the exact moment the last one left off, with the Lego citizens of Bricksburg being attacked by the cute but aggressive invaders of Lego Duplo, who have come from another world to seemingly lay siege to their fair city.  In the five years since, the town has become an apocalyptic wasteland, with all of the characters from before like Lucy/WyldStyle (voice by Elizabeth Banks), the adorable Unikitty (Alison Brie), and even Lego Batman (Will Arnett) turning into battle-hardened warriors who give brooding narrations and monologues about how bleak their existence has become.  The only one unaffected by the apocalypse is the ever-optimistic Emmett (Chris Pratt), who still believes that everything is awesome in the face of impending doom.  But when Emmett's friends are kidnapped by a mysterious alien visitor who takes them to the far-off and glitter-filled string of planets known as the Systar System to meet the shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), Emmett will have to embrace his inner loner hero in order to save them all, and possibly his world.

The Lego Movie 2 matches a lot of the wit of the first, but it lacks the grand scope.  The first movie felt like an epic as it journeyed across multiple Lego worlds and landscapes.  This time around, the settings are surprisingly limited, and just don't feel as exciting as before.  A lot of the adventure is set in outer space, and the many planets that make up the Systar System, but I kind of miss the various worlds based on play sets build around Westerns or exotic lands.  What keeps things interesting is how the movie again manages to sneak in a lot of clever parody elements.  I especially liked the character of Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Chirs Pratt), a space jockey who flies through the stars with a crew made up entirely of velociraptors (whose dialogue is hilariously expressed through subtitles), and who seems to be one giant combination of all of Pratt's roles in recent blockbusters.

Also like before, the movie takes great pleasure in being self aware in the best way possible.  The end credits are accompanied by a very funny song about how great credits are.  At one point, Lego Batman sings another song that basically spoofs the entire film saga of the Dark Knight, where the jokes and references fly so fast, it might require repeated viewings.  There are cameos to watch out for (both voice actor and characters from various franchises), as well as both visual and verbal humor that you might not catch.  The only downside is not all of jokes hit as much as before.  There's a particularly annoying running gag about a banana that is constantly slipping on itself that the movie keeps on falling back on that is just not funny, and becomes even less so the sixth or seventh time the movie falls back on it.  Still, even if not everything works, there are enough bright spots to make it worth watching once.

But that also kind of adds to my slight disappointment.  I may watch this once more just to catch the little things I missed, but I don't think it will require as many viewings as the first did for me.  This is a movie that works, but not everything comes together as beautifully as before.  Maybe it was inevitable.  Whatever the case, the movie is still worth the time of anyone who liked what came before, and that's enough.

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