So it looks like the established trend with the unexpected success of “The Lego Movie” is that said franchise is going to be the ultimate victim of its success. Make no mistake; “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” is definitely good, but in hindsight, it only makes sense that a visually inventive comedy playing with the tropes of a child’s playtime stories was something that could only leave a whammy of an impact once, even if making it the foundation of a franchise can work for multiple features, if slightly less effectively.
Set several years after the first movie, fulfilling the promise at the end of having the child’s sister invited to play, the film picks up in an apocalyptic Bricksburg in conflict with the citizens of Planet Duplo in the Sis Star system. Seeking to save his friends after being abducted for some sort of universe ending ceremony, Emmett (Chris Pratt) fights his way to the Sis Star system, learning to harden himself for the challenging times from the velociraptor taming, cowboy, space faring, adventurer Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt).
If that synopsis didn’t make it obvious where the lines of antagonism lie, “The Lego Movie 2” uses the perspective of an outside contributor to the story being told as its core gimmick, with the older boy clearly entering his awkward grim and gritty, dark and brooding, hardcore content equals mature phase and having to figure out how to balance the interference and intentions of a younger sibling he doesn’t relate to. On paper that sounds like a fair set up but in execution, it proves to be fairly rocky for the first half of the movie.
The visual direction keeps its characteristic pop and cleverness but the story and character beats, outside of a few chuckle worthy gags that land here and there, feel far more worn and noticeably less fresh than they did in either this movie’s immediate predecessor or its two spinoffs from the previous year based on “Batman” and original Lego property “Ninjago.” Nothing in it feels particularly bad per se, but fairly flat and pedestrian, especially when the nature of the plot’s metatextual framing is a cat that has been long let loose out of the bag.
The introduction of Rex Dangervest’s obvious caricature of Chris Pratt’s career shift as an actor circa 2014 and his endlessly amusing army of raptors inject some much needed life into the production and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give major credit where it’s due for a studio like Warner Bros. to actively use its major public entertainment industry blunders and petty rivalries, from which it’s still recovering, as fuel for legitimately funny gags that are still seamlessly woven into the narrative they’re a part of.
Sadly, a lot of the script, at least as executed, just doesn’t carry the same level of sharpness as its predecessor and occasionally falls back on being too self referential about its status as an imaginative manifestation of recreation and personal growth between figures existing beyond the confines of the Lego antics happening on-screen.
Fortunately, the third act of “The Lego Movie 2” almost pulls a complete 180 degree turn, as the exact nature of the sibling relationship in question becomes more obvious, heralded by a twist regarding the nature of Rex Dangervest that’s so brilliant in its obvious simplicity that it almost single handedly torpedoed the criticism of the feature’s lacking subtlety that had been sitting in my head for nearly an hour by the time it plays itself. The result is a final act that recontextualizes the film to an end that is nowhere near as mind blowing as the first movie was but is nonetheless clever, endearing, and heartwarming in all of the ways one would hope for riding off of the first movie.
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” definitely stumbles through a fair share of growing pains but manages to still come out on the other side proving its worth as a premium cinematic franchise that nobody saw coming. While it will probably be a bigger hit with kids than all ages in the same way the first was, it’s still no slouch and has a lot of heart backing its rapid fire comedy, even if it’s hit-to-miss ratio is a little bit rockier.
4 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.