Five years after The Lego Movie stormed theaters and unexpectedly blew back the hair of critics and moviegoers alike (only to be shut out of the Oscars animated film contest entirely), the world is a very different place. The White House is occupied by a hot Cheeto-colored p*ssy-grabber. White nationalists march the streets with tiki torches. The world’s climate is going haywire, meaning raging summers of fire and winters of blistering cold. Basic civility has sunk to dwell with Davey Jones locker. Everything is decidedly not awesome. Even the toys know so.
The shift in culture is commented on with no small stroke of subtlety in the uniquely Lego-animated sequel from director Mike Mitchell (Trolls, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo) which reimagines the world of Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) as a Mad Max-inspired wasteland. Duplo invaders in UFOs have leveled their cities, laying waste to their once-gilded society known as Bricksburg, outcasting survivors to a life of dystopia and chainsaws.
The obnoxiously chipper Emmet is largely unfazed by the change, still humming along to tween renditions of “Everything is Awesome”, sipping on sugar with a splash of coffee, and dreaming of a quaint life with a white-picket-fenced-home on the prairie – complete with trampoline gym and waffle toaster room. When an invader known sinisterly as General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) captures Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and astronaut enthusiastic Benny (Charlie Day), it’s up to Emmet to grow up, change his tune, and save his friends before a world-ending prophecy, Ourmomageddon, comes to bear.
Through Phil Lord and Chris Miller have remained on as producers and writers, The Lego Movie: The Second Part lacks the same snap, crackle, pop originality that defined their first outing under the Lego banner. Gone is the sardonic skewering of consumerist culture – a big chunk of the genius behind The Lego Movie remains its turdunkin commentary on consumer culture packaged in a consumerist product – and replaced by a go-for-broke dump of meta-jokes, pop culture cameos, intentionally irritating jingles, and Lite-Brit-colored visual effects.
This splashy sequel has bombast in no short supply – it’s the equivalent of a grande mocha extra-caffeinated, double-sweetened, full-whip, coconut milk, cinnamon dolce latte macchiato with 6 extra shots and it shakes, rattles, and rolls as much as anyone who might imbibe such a substance. And yet, much of it manages to connect, despite the clear over-caffeination at play. The introduction of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (voiced gleefully by Tiffany Haddish), accompanied by a Disney villain-inspired song about how “not evil” she is, is a notable highlight, as are the many quick throwaway one-liners, quips, and sight gags that are absolutely spring-loaded in every nook and cranny of The Lego Movie 2.
Everything adds up to a “why can’t we be friends?” lesson that’s about as heavy as a Smash Mouth cover song, a decidedly less infectious and mind-churning takeaway than what was presented the first time out. Along the way though it’s nearly impossible not to chuckle, the sheer amount of jokes flying at the screen a certifiable onslaught that’s sure to connect at one point or another through sheer force of will. Some of the material lands with a dud – the pronunciation of things like “the bin of stor-ajh” (a storage bin) and “the Sis-Star System” (sister’s room) tires quickly, as do the many jarring transitions to “the real world”- while others soar, none so much as the wonderful mid-credits rap anthem from The Lonely Island.
Without ever pumping the breaks, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part never risks stalling out, machine-gunning snappy wink-at-the-camera in-jokes, pop culture references, and adorable toddler-voiced Duplo creatures in such rapid succession that one’s brain may fry and fizzle from pure candy-colored sensory overload. What’s more, this sequel boasts enough heart and creative twists to keep it fresh and engaging, breaking from the formula of its predecessor to boldly go to new places. And though it can’t match the wunderkind snap of creativity that characterized the first time out, Lego-lightning almost strikes twice. And that proves more than enough to energize this much-anticipated sequel.
CONCLUSION: Emmet and his brick buddies return for an intergalactic sequel that pummels audiences with a frenetic onslaught of poppy amusement, losing some of the original crackle of its forebearer but making up with a maniac’s pace of jokes, some truly inspired musical interludes, and corkscrew twists on the established formula.
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