Header Ads

LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, The (2019)

Powerhouse writer/producer/director duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller have made a career out of making movies that sound like bad ideas on paper. From Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs to 21 Jump Street, their films have benefited from overcoming low expectations. Perhaps most of all 2014's The LEGO Movie blew away audiences and critics alike, taking in over $468 million at the global box-office and winning a BAFTA for Best Animated Feature. Surely their luck had to run out eventually?

Almost exactly five years after that film was released, after numerous delays and two spin-offs, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part finally opened in cinemas across the world. This time though, it seems the novelty had worn off for audiences. The sequel made $191 million (on an estimated $99 million budget) and lead to Warner Bros allowing their deal with the Danish toymaker to lapse. It's unlikely that we've seen the last LEGO movie of any kind, but it appears that The Second Part is the end of the road- at least for this version of the franchise. If true, that's a shame as, by virtually every metric -other than box-office returns- this is a worthy successor to the game-changing original.

I'll admit that once again, personally, I had pretty low expectations going in. The last time a Lord and Miller animated movie was sequalised we got the deeply disappointing Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. And like that movie, Lord and Miller did not return to direct, this time handing over helming duties to Mike Mitchell whose CV is less than spectacular. Unlike Cloudy 2 however, Lord and Miller are credited with the screenplay for LEGO Movie 2, resulting in a sequel that has lost none of the original's charm.

Five years after the arrival of the Duplo Invaders at the end of the last film, Bricksburg has been turned into a Mad Max like post-apocalyptic wasteland named Apocalypseburg. Its citizens have become hardened. All, that is, except for Emmet (Chris Pratt) who has somehow retained his cheery demeanour. Until one day Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie) Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny (Charlie Day) are whisked away by a mysterious figure -General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) to the Systar System.  There they are taken to the mysterious Queen Watevera Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). After failing to recruit any Master Builders for his mission,  Emmett sets off to rescue his friend. Along the way, he meets a mysterious adventurer Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt).

If you had to describe The LEGO Movie in one word, it would probably have to be "funny", and that remains the case for The Second Part. Lord and Miller's screenplay is a constant stream of gags, one-liners, references and meta humour that moves at an exhilarating pace. Its gag-to-the-minute ratio puts most live-action comedies to shame. There's so much of it, that if you don't like one gag, there'll be another along any minute that maybe you will. LEGO's huge list of licences allows the movie to pack in pop-culture references and brilliant jokes, affectionately poking fun at seemingly every franchise from DC, Lord Of The Rings, Jurassic Park, Doctor Who, Harry Potter and Twilight. Or at least every franchise that Disney doesn't own ("Marvel won't return our calls").

The other major appeal of the LEGO movies is the animation itself. Despite being (mainly) CG, Animal Logic does an incredible job of creating a visual style that looks every bit as if it was stop-motion, created with real LEGO. Add in 2D animated faces (and a few sequences using different styles) and there's something about it that can appeal even to fans of traditional animation techniques. Only, of course, there's a lot here that would be extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve in stop-motion. The visuals and set design are fantastically imaginative throughout, and the sequel takes a step up in terms of ambition.

The Second Part leans into what made the first film so successful, but its creative team still bring lots of new stuff to the table. Alongside the returning cast (who are all once again, brilliant) there's plenty of new additions. Haddish has a whale of time as the suspicious Wa'Nabi, and Beatriz's role as the Queen's right-hand woman is less thankless than it first appears. British comedy fans will get a kick out of hearing Richard Ayoade and Noel Fielding pop up in supporting roles.  Chris Pratt, meanwhile has fun voicing Rex (the second Pratt?) sending up his other roles, while channelling his Guardians Of The Galaxy co-star Kurt Russell. Among the existing cast, Arnett's Batman continues to be a highlight.

Following on the success of ear-worm Everything Is Awesome, The Second Part is full of original songs ("Oh no, are we in a musical?" "Hope not"). Everything is Awesome itself returns in several forms, including its polar opposite.  Jon Lajoie (best known as Taco in The League) contributes several songs, including the self-explanatory Catchy Song. Best of all though, are the two songs performed brilliantly by Tiffany Haddish, Not Evil - a brilliant spin on the "villain song"- and Gotham City Guys.

One of the criticisms levelled at the original was that it didn't do a good job with its female characters. Things are much better here, with Wyldstyle (referred to more often by her actual name Lucy) getting much more to do, and actually getting a bit of back-story. All the characters here are basically little more than joke-delivery systems, but Lucy gets as much depth as anyone. Essentially she gets a promotion, becoming co-lead this time around. Haddish and Beatriz also get the most significant parts among the new additions.

The live-action, "real-world" elements are also much better integrated this time around. While in the first film, they felt like they came out of nowhere at the very end and threatened the very reality of the film. Peppered throughout the sequel, they work so much better here.

The first film's last-minute attempt to swerve into sincerity also felt misplaced. Here the film's wider themes thread through the film much more naturally and the live-action elements actually help them land. It's not going to make you cry or anything, but it's good that there's more going on than non-stop gags.

Even if franchise fatigue has taken the shine off LEGO for you,  you should still give it a try. This film has something that LEGO Batman and LEGO Ninjago didn't- Lord and Miller's screenplay makes all the difference. If you enjoyed the first movie, it's hard to imagine you not at least getting something out of the Second Part. Conversely, if the first movie was too much for, the sequel is only going to make it worse. If this really is the last we see of Emmet, Lucy and company then it's bittersweet. If further sequels were anywhere near this good then they'd be very welcome, but at least it's going out on a high.


IN A NUTSHELL: Somehow they've done it again. The Second Part is a sharply written, endlessly inventive sequel and, yes- everything is (still) awesome, in every way.