The Lego Movie 2 Hits a Lot of Good but Familiar Beats

While walking around Brooklyn on the shockingly nice Monday I mentioned to fellow blog contributor Brandon I thought The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part had a particularly challenging task ahead of it. The first movie (spoiler) ends with the reveal that the story is an imaginary story dreamt up by a young boy playing with Lego to better understand his relationship with his father. The boy and father bond, and the Lego people simultaneously get a happy ending. The two plots happen in tandem with each other – the Lego people are still treated as if their plot is actually happening, even as if it is influenced by our normal flesh and blood world. It works well, but it works especially well because it’s established at the end of the movie, so you’re not wondering the whole movie “wait… what is the real world equivalent to this beat in Emmett and the gangs’ story?” Now, with new rules, that question would suffuse every scene in The Lego Movie 2. Furthermore, with the reveal at the end of the previous movie, The Lego Movie 2 can’t be just fluff (The Lego Batman Movie, for example, simply ignores the “real world” counterpart of it’s story, which makes sense but won’t fly here). We know these events correspond to some kid’s imagination, so the plot must to be about him somehow growing in the real world while still working on the level of the “Lego people” and without returning to the same exact emotional well of the first movie. That’s a tall order.

The movie refocuses the relationship from father and son to brother and sister. President Business aka the Father (Will Ferrell) has opened his Lego collection up to his son (who is played by Jadon Sand and is apparently named “Finn”) and as a result also to his daughter (Brooklyn Prince). Now it’s Finn’s turn to be uptight as his younger sister brings her Duplos to play and ends up destroying everything he creates. Five years pass, and in the Lego world things have become dystopian. Emmett (Chris Pratt) has failed to change with the times even though Wildstyle aka Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) wants him to. When General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) of the Systar System arrives and captures all of Emmett’s friends it’s time for him to grow up and go to their rescue while preventing the Mom-Ageddon. Meanwhile Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) attempts to win them over to seeing things her way, proposing a marriage to Batman (Will Arnett) to solidify a bond between their two systems.

If that sounds clunky to you, you’re right. The first forty-ish minutes of the movie suffer from a lack of clear focus in every way. There are cuts to the real world, strange prophecies, and just a plethora of characters, many of whom are around because they’re in the first movie but who don’t really have anything to contribute here. On the Lego level the movie suffers in the same way any big “star-faring” adventure of recent years (be it Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Last Jedi, or Infinity War) which is that the characters are spread out all over the place and the movie can’t quite seem to find an organic way to cut between their stories. To be perfectly honest the only real saving grace of the first part of the movie is Tiffany Haddish’s Queen Watevra who is played as both conniving and sincere, who has an excellent Lego-brick specific character design, and who gets an extremely fun musical number explaining her motives.

Thankfully once the pieces have been moved into the place the movie returns to the breezy fun of the first film in the series. Complicated plots (and this plot remains complicated) can be easily made up for or made fun providing the characters work remains coherent (look only at fellow Miller-Lord production Into the Spiderverse). In fact, the more complicated this movie gets, and the more it leans into the “real world” storyline (something I feared would overshadow the plot) the better it gets. It goes for relatively similar emotional beats as the first one, with a reshuffling of roles, but that doesn’t make for a bad film, and the emotional moments still landed. I happen to love Lego, and while I think it’s widely recognized that these movies could have been a cheap promotion (I mean, they are still that no matter what else they are) they also remind me, truly, of learning how to share my passion and play time with my siblings. Also, there’s some time travel in the later section. Why not?

From a technical standpoint, the movie still looks good. Though every part of me wishes it was actually stop motion, I understand why it can’t be, and the movie at least has some fun changing up animation style while still keeping with the idea of a child’s imagination – there’s a crayon picture moment, some cardboard and blanket backdrops, and some actual Lego figures jerkily moving around in the real world, which is always funny. The Systar system includes more non-Lego items to augment the Lego world (blankets and frills, most notably) which makes sense – when you get older Lego becomes sort of sacrescant and supplementing it with something else aka mixing and matching is sort of “cheating,” but a younger child probably wouldn’t feel that way. It’ a nice subtle touch to highlight the difference between the two and their approaches to Lego.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part didn’t bring me quite as much joy as the first one, but once it gets good it gets very good. I give it 7 Lego Bruce Willis Mini-figs out of 10 Maya Rudolphs.

OTHER THOUGHTS:

  • I feel like we can probably be done with Mad Max: Fury Road parodies at this point, right?
  • As a big Lego fan, there are always some fun references in these movies. In this one I was particularly pleased to see the inclusion of some Fabuland figures.
  • I’m well aware it’s necessary for this movies to work, but dear god these kids are talented builders.
  • There is a song during the credits that is very, very funny.

 

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