When ‘The Lego Movie' debuted on to our screens in 2014, we were all blown away, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (‘21 Jump Street’, 'Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs') managed to do the impossible and successfully make a huge corporate tie-in into a heartwarming, witty, pop culture-filled masterpiece. Now, five years latter, Emmet (Chris Pratt, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Jurassic World’ franchises) Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks, ‘Pitch Perfect’ and ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’ franchises) and most importantly Planty are back - and the Lego world has changed... Duplo has arrived.
The film opens right where the first one left off, putting us right back with the characters, and shows us the aftermath of Finn’s sister being allowed to bring her toys downstairs. The first 20 minutes are great - the jokes are rapped fire, everything is continuing beautifully from the first film. But around the time Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish, 'Girls Trip', 'Night School'), a shapeshifting pile of bricks, is introduced the film stops becoming a fresh family film and starts to rely on the tropes of the genre.
Queen Watevra’s introduction scene is a musical number (which was very exciting to me), singing how she isn’t evil yet only sounding more and more evil the longer it goes on, but there was something about it that didn't work. I think because 90% of animated kids' films have these random musical numbers, and 'The Lego Movie 2' wasn’t really doing anything new with it; it wasn’t playing on that trope, it just was a musical number in a kid’s film. I think maybe if Haddish wasn’t doing the singing and it was a professional singer, it could have been stronger, but as is, it was okay. A film like ‘Teen Titians Go! To the Movies’ really made the comedy musical numbers work in favour of the characters and not feel forced, and Lego should have gone for this style. She has another musical later on in the film with Batman and that was done much better, but I feel the introduction number should have been stronger. While 'Everything is Awesome' does play several times in the film, the new standout is 'Catchy Song' - and wow, is it ever. I loved it, and apologies parents but I think from the audience there, kids are going to go crazy for it.
Outside of Haddish, there are some other new faces. While having an interesting look, the only purpose of General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz, TV's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'), a general in the Systar System, is to kidnap our lead characters and take them to the new world. Chris Pratt this time around gets to play another character, Rex Dangervest, the complete opposite of Emmet and a parody of Pratt’s other works. The character is quite fun especially when pared with Emmett who is constantly trying to prove his manliness.
In ‘The Lego Movie’, there is a huge send-up of the Chosen one arch and how everyone is their own kind of special, but then in ‘The Lego Movie 2’, we get a version of this again. Early on, Emmet tells Wyldstyle about a nightmare he had, which turns about to be a vision of the terrifying “Our-Mom-Ageddon”. It’s a funny bit, but it feels a little similar to the original film - again, it doesn’t do anything with it, it’s just a part of the plot.
Going in, I was curious how they were going to continue with the live action aspects of the film considering both ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ and 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' (mostly) strayed from that element, as did the trailer for the second part. And yes, they do bring it back and its weaved into the story throughout, this time around the story focusing on the brother's relationship with his sister and if they don’t get along our Lego friends they will end up in the “bin of store-age”. There is a nice message here, but every time we cut back to the brother and sister storyline, it feels off and only here because the first one had it. I think the film overall could have done without it and still have a strong message about sharing and togetherness.
While 'The Lego Movie 2' isn’t as strong as the first, which was always going to be a hard feat, it still has laughs, a good message and fun and creative worlds.
There are a lot of positives here. The animation is somehow even better than the first; you feel like you could just pick up these characters and play with them. The film has a more creative production design - Bricksburg is now Apocalypseburg, and that allows for a lot of fun animation (and a ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ reference). The characters have been in this world for five years, so there are a lot of rips and scratches, and some characters have really cool costume upgrades. The Systar System is where most of the film takes place and there are so many wild designs here; it's big and random and so colourful. All the buildings are unique, and it’s fun to look off in the background and really see all the effort the animators put into this world.
Replacing Lord and Miller in the director’s chair is Mike Mitchell ('Trolls', 'Sky High') and you can definitely feel that loss. While Mitchell is a fine director, he doesn’t have the same flair as Lord and Miller do, a lot of the visual humour is missing from The Second Part.
As always, the pop culture references are great, even though they are toned down in favour of new characters which is fine. The best one will make of a lot of the audience say "Yippe-Ki Yay!". My personal favourite is Larry Poppins, who says salt helps the medicine go down. And that’s what I love the most about these movies - it’s those small side jokes that just have you laughing weeks after, and while 'The Lego Movie 2' isn’t as strong as the first, which was always going to be a hard feat, it still has laughs, a good message and fun and creative worlds.