The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Directed by Mike Mitchell
Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and Tiffany Haddish
Reber’s Rating – B+
Hi, my name is Jerrold and I have an affinity for kid’s movies. Wanna fight about it?
Okay, not fight physically, but I’ll certainly debate the day away on why today’s crop of animated movies are catered more towards adults than kids themselves. That is a lecture that I could present before legions of fans the world over and contest with anyone who would talk over coffee. However, this being neither the time nor place I’ll just come back down to Earth. Look at the creators of today’s hit animated films. They’re adults, all raised as children in the 1980’s, their affinity for popular culture sprinkled gingerly into their scripts and sight gags. Moreover, in this modern age of animated films, the thematic elements too have grown with the times. These themes aren’t for kids but more meant for the adults whose interest is piqued with the forthcoming releases.
Take the latest entry from Warner Brothers Animation, a sequel to a film totally unconventional from its brethren. I doubt most folk ever imagined 2014’s The Lego Movie becoming such a cultural phenomena. Take a crop of original characters, a slew of various popular culture properties, and a dash of heart for measure, and stir up all the ingredients for success so the formula is mixed exceptionally. Writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had woven a hit stemmed from their idiosyncrasies of comedy and pop culture, though hitting home with the central theme tucked into the film’s core. Inside of every adult lies a colossal child wanting to go back to the basics. There are some things we can’t give up, fragments of our childhood we have no desire of letting fade away.
So here we are, five years later, and the duo have returned to pen The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, a sequel progressing the story of the wildly-optimistic Emmet and a world that wants him to grow up. The world around him is continually changing and his ideals of creating a sanguine setting are challenged, taking our Master Builder on an adventure into the Sis-Star System to save his friends. Yes, the story is fairly simple and played out like a worn-down VHS tape, yet is told in a manner that makes us feel like our imaginations are running rampant. Lord and Miller craft a film that feels like a page ripped out of from Pixar’s playbook and warp the material into a earnest and pleasing 106-minute ride that’s easy on the eyes.
If the first film was filled with the hustle and bustle of a child’s overactive imagination, imagine that youthful child blossoming into a hormonal adolescent. Towards the end of The Lego Movie we discovered that Bricksburg was actually the conception of a father’s artistry in a way to unwind. Some men toy with model trains – others erect Lego meccas. Finn, the young boy from the first go around, just wanted to play with his father. And, as you recall, then the sister crashed the basement safe space. Suffice to say, Bricksburg has endured a lot of invasions over five years. Our Lego friends now live in a desert wasteland more akin to Mad Max: Fury Road, visual cues to George Miller’s epic included. Gone is the massive cityscape our protagonists occupied. Now everything is laid to waste.
Of course these are characters that are not aware that they are fictional. Therein lies the crux of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Sure, this is marketed as a kid’s film. You’ve got the lovable fluffy Unikitty, the dark and antsy Batman, the somewhat-timid Emmet. Really though, Lord and Miller’s sequel is about radical change. We can’t stay kids forever. When we’re in that sweet spot, around 8 or 9 years old, everything is awesome. Our minds are wildly lit with invention and vision. The floor is lava. Action figures star in shows we create for them. Lego mini figurines engage in fantastical adventures. As we grow up our tastes in what is popular changes too. The more the years pass we learn not everything is truly awesome after all. We become complex, following shows surrounding post-apocalyptic life instead of light and fluffy programming. What once made us happy doesn’t anymore. We fight and argue, we don’t want to share, we wish to be left to our own devices. That theme ripples through The Second Part helping to connect both grownups and youngsters both.
One of the biggest plot devices in The Second Part is awkward Chris Pratt meeting charming Chris Pratt. The trailer gives that away without any sort of spoiler alert. The best way I can compare Pratt’s leading men are rooted in his own filmography. The bushy-eyed man-child Emmet Brickowski is Andy Dwyer ripped right from Parks and Recreation, a fluffy lovable buffoon who has a lust for life and not taking matters seriously. Rex Dangervest on the other hand is exactly as described within The Lego Movie 2 – “galaxy defending archeologist, cowboy, and raptor trainer.” We get a a dash of Peter Quill, a sprinkle of Josh Faraday (2016’s The Magnificent Seven if you’ve missed that gem), and a pinch of Owen Grady all in one, a galaxy-hopping adventurer with scores of raptors running his ship. Yes, the ship is a giant fist – what do you expect from a dude-bro? The two are the anti-thesis of each other, one a simpleton who wants to settle down and rebuild whilst the other lives for danger and adventure.
The Second Part doesn’t shy away about succumbing to the pressures that surround us. We can’t always turn a blind eye as we grow older. Sometimes we need to just let go and accept what will be will be. Not everything in life will be doom and gloom. We can control our destinies should we desire to take control. Emmet sees Rex as the brother he never had, the older more world-worn mentor he aspires to be someday. Lucy has a hard time letting go of the dismal present and unable to see that things can change if she allows them and puts forth the effort. Hell, sometimes people we meet who are different aren’t really all that shady. We, much like Emmet and Lucy, can control who we want to be. We can be a goober or we can remain guarded, the choice is ours, but accepting change is what helps us come of age.
As usual, one facet that Lord and Miller shine well with are the numerous pop culture references. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is far from short on references, as well as a legion of celebrity cameos. Sure, the first film was filled to the brim with both Lego and pop culture gags, but the ante is notched to the next level for the sequel. If you can think of a property or a character, odds are there’s a reference lurking in plain sight. Adult fare from rival studios, real-life cameos from all-too-recognizable faces, even tongue-in-cheek play on words, if Lord and Miller can think it, their wish is fulfilled. Only outside of last year’s Ready Player One have I seen so many cameos whiz past on the screen. Even Marvel gets a playful rib in a throwaway line the adults didn’t miss. Sure, there’s a bevy of goodies for the children but more hidden gems for the adults to appreciate.
The Lego Movie 2 has all the makings of a June release and surely doesn’t deserve to be dropped in early February. The trailers didn’t exactly set the world ablaze but, as the adage is worded, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have made a name for themselves with their irreverent sense of humor. They can tackle serious when need be – look at Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse as a prime example – but their bread and butter remains in pop culture. I wouldn’t be against another sequel in this franchise. Sometimes a gentle reminder of how to be a decent human being, mostly rooted in just being your jovial self, is what is needed to cure the mid-winter doldrums. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is the right escapist exploit we need to start February off right.