Spoiler-Free Review of The LEGO Movie 2
The LEGO Movie franchise has been one of the most surprising standouts in a sea of cinematic universes. What began as a simple building toy has blossomed not only to a multi-age-group product, but also a multi-age-group media franchise. The original LEGO Movie, released in 2014, blended the inherent creativity of the building blocks with SUPER-meta wit and humor on top of a surprisingly deep and emotional moral of order vs. chaos. With two spinoffs under its belt (2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie), fans have been eagerly anticipating the sequel to the ground- (and genre-) breaking original. Five years later, the wait has paid off with The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part.
As the climax of the 2014 revealed, the adventures of Emmet Brickowski and Wyldstyle (real name Lucy) exist in the fantastical and complex imagination of Finn, a young boy playing with the toys in “the real world.” And as the first film ended, his little sister Bianca has been allowed to play too. In Finn’s imagination, this translates to an utter invasion of toddler-like DUPLO aliens who wreak havoc on Bricksburg, sending Emmet, Lucy, and their friends in war-mode. After five years of living in a Mad Max-esque version of existence, the heroes find that the invaders have evolved into various new forms of aliens from the “Systar System.” Led by General Mayhem, the invaders kidnap Lucy and the others, leaving only Emmet to bravely leave his home to free his friends from the self-proclaimed “not evil” Queen Watevra Wa’nabi before she (maybe) causes a world-destroying event by marrying Batman. Along the way, Emmet teams up with the mysterious and charismatic adventurer Rex Dangervest, who teaches the optimistic minifigure how to shed his youthful ideals and “grow up.”
As with all the films within the “LEGO-verse” (in fact, even with all Phil Lord/Christopher Miller projects), there is a massive amount of humor and in-jokes poking fun at the film’s own characters and conventions, such as when Gandalf (yes, that Gandalf) explains to Emmet that they are out of heroes became “Marvel’s not returning our calls.” The character of Rex Dangervest (voiced by Chris Pratt, who also voices Emmet) is even a self-referential parody of Chris Pratt and his various blockbuster roles, as he’s an intergalactic superhero (like Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy) AND a raptor trainer (like his character Owen from Jurassic World). They even reference Pratt’s career-making weight loss as part of Rex’s fantastical backstory.
Whereas the main story of the first film served as a surprise metaphor for the relationship between Finn and his father, the sequel is upfront from the beginning as a metaphor for the sibling conflict of Finn and Bianca. And even as the film examines the disparate playing styles between a preteen and teen, its emotional resonance comes from a deeper theme of “growing up.” As five years pass between films, Finn struggles with growing up, with Emmet as the symbol for his childish innocence. Throughout the film, the catchy mantra of “Everything is Awesome” gets more and more strained and hard to believe in, until a compromise is made in order to save the worlds of both Finn and Bianca’s imaginations.
Speaking of “Everything is Awesome,” you won’t be free from catchy ear-worm songs in this film either. Not only does the first film’s “theme song” get a poppy “Tween Dream” remix (performed by indie favorites Garfunkel and Oates and Eban Schletter), but Bianca’s influence seems to turn the whole world into a musical, with Tiffany Haddish’s Queen Watevra singing two musical numbers and introducing a very simply titled “Catchy Song,” which offers no actual substance except to explain that “this song’s gonna get stuck inside your head.” And boy, does it ever. As an added bonus, the end credits song is one of the best on the soundtrack, performed by Beck and Robyn and featuring hilarious rap breaks by The Lonely Island, extolling the virtues of credits and even pointing out some of their favorite names.
Comparisons between a film and its sequel are impossible to avoid, but The LEGO Movie 2 feels more like a continuation of a story than a standalone story. The same momentum is carried over, and the same creativity, both in terms of its story and its amazingly complex animation, has the franchise’s distinct signature. And although the film’s climax is admittedly difficult to really parse (Are the minifigures still alive in the real world? Are they still just being imagined by Finn/Bianca?), the movie earns enough good will from the amount of fun that’s built into its core so that everything at least feels awesome.
The LEGO Movie 2 is now in theaters!