Everything is still awesome. While the long-awaited The Lego Movie sequel doesn’t completely capture the magic of its predecessor, it sets a standard for what animated sequels should be. This movie sits among the likes of Toy Story 2 and Shrek 2 in this regard. By keeping the spirit of the original alive, but taking care not to rehash old material, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part shines.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Mike Mitchell
Written By: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Picking up where the first film left off, we find Emmet (Pratt) and the gang being attacked by visitors from Planet Duplo. After five years of endless destruction, the former residents of Bricksburg are forced to become hardened, except for Emmet who retains his usual cheer. When General Sweet Mayhem (Beatriz) kidnaps Lucy (Banks) and Emmett’s best friends, Emmet races into the cosmos to save them.
Teaming up with the incredibly cool and hardened Rex Dangervest (Pratt), Emmet must learn to balance his softness and his toughness if he hopes to save his friends from the mysterious Armommageddon and Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Haddish).
The Lego Movie is one of my favorite animated movies of all time. With Phil Lord and Christopher Miller at the helm, the movie is a technical and comedic masterpiece. The film triumphs on many levels. Its stop-motion-esque take on computer animation pushes the genre on the same level as 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The comedic elements strike a perfect balance between child and adult and slapstick and satire. The story is sweet, personal, and extremely relevant to virtually any audience.
After a five-year gap between the sequel and the original, The Lego Movie 2 has arrived. While the film could have easily coasted off of the same beats and jokes of the original, The Lego Movie 2 manages to forge its own path. The spirit and frivolity of the original remains, but the sequel is something almost entirely new, and that is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the Hollywood sequel-scape.
What makes the Lego films stand out most is the visual style. The animation of these films is so detailed and realistic, that it’s easy to forget that these films are animated, not filmed in stop motion. Warner Animation Group has outdone themselves again by improving upon the Lego franchise’s signature style. What really sets this film apart is the attention to detail on the individual Lego pieces.
The Lego Movie 2 feels very real. The transitions between Lego and real world feel seamless as the animation style continues to push the bounds of reality. Serial numbers imprinted on arms and mold lines on hair pieces subtly pop the characters into the real world. This film feels real, and the animation style rivals Spider-Verse and Pixar in its own way.
A Path of Its Own
Sequels are really easy to write lazily. Sequels exist, whether good or bad, on the steam of the original. This makes it really easy to continue a sequel on the same beats as the original. Why? Because if people paid to watch Character A change in this way and do these things the first time, they will probably pay to watch Character A do it again.
However, what’s challenging is to make a known character do something genuinely different. This is where The Lego Movie 2 shines brightest. Instead of having Emmet have to learn to find the special in himself once more, he is faced with a new challenge. Not only that, but Lucy is challenged in her own way, and the two arcs parallel each other nicely.
When taking in the breath of fresh air that the new characters bring, the story is allowed to flourish on its own. Unfortunately this means that fan favorites such as Batman, Metal Bead, and Unikitty take more of a back seat. However, the new characters add enough to the story to keep it just as fun and engaging as the original.
Trimming The Fat
Sequels are not inherently bad. In fact, sequels get to skip some of the more tedious burdens of the original. Sequels don’t have to deliver on an origin or fully explain where the characters come from. Rather, sequels have the freedom to move forwards and try new things. Sequels also give the creators a chance to fine tune both the flaws and the triumphs of their initial work.
The Lego Movie 2 exemplifies this attitude towards sequels brilliantly. Rather than playing it safe, retaining certain character traits, story lines, and jokes, the film reworks its concept from the original. First and foremost, the film takes place almost entirely in new locations. The environments are fresh and exciting, and the audience gets to learn about and explore them with the main characters.
The film treads carefully around familiar joke material and humor. While several humorous nods are ripped from the original, the film is careful not to revel in its established glory. Rather, the film opts for new jokes and humorous exploration. The characters are well-written and don’t feel stagnant. Even the characters that have been pushed to smaller roles still have something to add to the story, slight as their additions may be.
The overall result is a streamlined story that is able to go a little deeper than the original without becoming too bogged down in its own nuance. The presence of the human characters, this time Finn, his sister Bianca, and their mom have a larger story line that parallels Emmet, Rex, Lucy, and Queen Whatevra Wa-Nabi’s.
“Such a Catchy Song”
The Lego Movie 2 is far more musically inclined than its predecessor. While the original stuck mainly to changing beats of Everything Is Awesome, the sequel adds its own unique blend of generic pop music to the Lego universe. The addition of Jon Lajoie means that the music is just as irreverent and poppy, and that it’s “gonna get stuck inside your head”.
Tiffany Haddish shows off some of her singing chops in the film’s biggest plot-centric showstopper. While other songs are peppered throughout the film in similar fashion to Everything is Awesome in the first movie. The Lonely Island also returns once more for one of the most entertaining credit songs out there.
Lighting Never Strikes Twice
While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and have few complaints with it, it just doesn’t deliver on the same level as the original. Quite frankly, the original captured something literally magical when it released in 2014. Featuring Chris Pratt on the verge of his big breakthrough, the first movie had a lot riding on it. It was an unknown entity in the animation game, due in part to its unique style. However, against any doubt and mysticism; the film was, and is, a triumph.
The Lego Movie is a fun and heartwarming movie made to sell plastic brick toys. It could have easily been phoned in, but it was created to be as clever and funny as humanly possible. There is an almost indescribable charm to the world of the first movie and its characters. While that charm is mostly retained in The Lego Movie 2, it just fails to fully live up to that of its predecessor.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part lives up to the potential of its predecessor, even if it doesn’t succeed it completely. That being said, it sets a standard for what animated sequels can, and should be. The film is charming, irreverent, and yet also emotionally nuanced. The film manages to ride the spirit of the original to new areas of story and character. It continues to set the Lego Franchise apart from other, similar animated franchises.
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