The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Fairly early on in 2014’s surprise animated hit The Lego Movie, most viewers who’ve ever played with toys understand the relationship between the real world and the hilarious, pop-culture-referencing actions happening in the land of plastic bricks.
The eventual pullback to reveal that the entire adventure was an elaborate attempt by young Finn (Jadon Sand) to work through his frustrations and prevent his father (Will Ferrell) from superglueing the pieces into their instruction-ordered forms cheapens the otherwise joyful celebration of imagination. But for the sake of getting that message across to younger moviegoers unlikely to grasp the grand scheme from adult-friendly clues, one can understand why writers/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller go this route.
While it appeared that the series had dispatched with blatant exposition after The Lego Batman Movie — its greatest hit — operated solely within the world of make-believe, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part doubles down on these live-action scenes but keeps the laugh count high enough to again warrant forgiveness.
The approach further clarifies the plot as well as lessons of sharing and being a good older brother to audience members of a certain age who hear a character named Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi and prophecy of Our-Mom-Ageddon and aren’t sure what to do with these silly words besides giggle, yet still grants adult viewers sufficient time to tap into their own childhoods and infer what’s going on before it’s spelled out.
The Lego Movie 2 finds Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), and friends navigating a Mad Max: Fury Road-inspired wasteland of its maker’s ‘tween angst, fighting off “invasions” by Finn’s little sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project) and her Duplo creations.
The human’s age-appropriate struggles creatively imbue the talking toys’ latest mission, which involves the aforementioned, shape-shifting monarch (a perfectly-cast Tiffany Haddish) and her attempts to assimilate the first film’s heroes into her sparkly realm.
Ceding directorial duties to Mike Mitchell (Trolls) but maintaining script control, Lord and Miller dole out rapid-fire comedy and visual gags galore from beloved characters and new faces, including a clumsy banana, Bruce Willis (voiced by the man himself), and renaissance man Rex Dangervest (Pratt, channeling his Guardians of the Galaxy 2 father Kurt Russell).
As the warring siblings’ parents, Maya Rudolph and Ferrell keep the live-action scenes tolerable, though each return to Emmet and Lucy is welcome. Perhaps to help compensate for enduring the extra time spent in the land of explicit morals, the filmmakers thank attendees via the marvelous end credits song “Super Cool,” in which Beck, Robyn and the comic rappers of The Lonely Island extol the virtues of the roll calls that follow each theatrical experience.
If it takes real-world explanations to attract a broad audience and enough box office returns to ensure further series installments, so be it — though should that pattern continue, standalone adventures that don’t adhere to those rules may become all the more precious for adult viewers uninterested in hand-holding. Here’s hoping The Lego Bruce Willis Movie is next.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande, and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Warner Bros.)