Sunday 10 February 2019

Review: The Lego Movie 2

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2D / thematic spoilers)
Cert: U / 107 mins / Dir. Trisha Gum & Mike Mitchell / Trailer

Has it really been five years since the first Lego movie? I supposed it must have, since the script for The Lego Movie 2 plainly sets this follow-up half a decade later, and when I check my previous review it is indeed dated 2014. The passage of time can be cruel and baffling for those of us who've refused to grow up completely*1

So. In the intervening years, the Lego town of Bricksburg has slowly morphed into the wasteland of Apocalypseburg. While Emmet (Chris Pratt) continues to bimble along optimistically, his friend Lucy/Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) has become a hardened, cynical warrior - still living in the town, but ready to fight whatever dangers life throws their way, in a bid to protect what little order is left. When an extra-terrestrial warrior, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), arrives one day announcing that Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) of the Systar System intends to wed Batman (Will Arnett), the resulting refusal, kidnap and voyage across the galaxy will be an adventure to test Emmet to his limits. Luckily, he's got a new friend to stand by his side…


First things first, The Lego Movie 2 is fun. It very much relies on you having seen the first entry (although the "2" is in the title so there can be few complaints) and it's still prone to wholesome over-sentimentality. But the sequel is as inventive as its plastic namesake, consistently funny and deceptively smart. If you enjoyed The Lego Movie, you'll get a lot out of this. If you didn't, well…

Whereas the divide between 'collector' play and open-ended adventuring previously fell with Will Ferell's 'Dad' character and his son Finn (Jadon Sand), this second entry shifts that generationally (as hinted at the end of the first movie) featuring his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), happy to mix-the-bricks while Finn moves up to advanced sets and more concentrated world-building. To properly facilitate this and illustrate that Lego™ can be enjoyed on a number of commitment-levels (because let's not forget that this is an unashamed two hour pay-to-view advert), the sprawling in-film, in-universe playscape now features pieces and characters from Duplo™ and Lego Friends™. Purists will squirm, and that's very much the point.


Ferrell takes a back seat for this adventure, still voicing President Business in the animated story and the 'in another room' voice of Dad in the live-action. But Maya Rudolph capably takes the wheel as the squabbling siblings' embattled mother, deadpanning her role perfectly (even if the film's U-certificate means Maya's character can't give a screen-accurate rendition of the outburst in which stepping on a Lego brick in bare feet actually results).

The live-action sections of the first movie were something of a third-act reveal, here they're dealt with head-on, interspersing the animated action throughout. The Lego characters don't (can't?) know the full extent of their real-world status as toys, but they're aware that their home has changed and there are larger, inexplicable forces at play. Rather than trying to iron out the differences between these two versions of reality, the script just carries on playing with them. By the end, the audience is no longer sure which events are the result of kids acting out a story and which are the in-universe characters themselves, continuing the narrative in their own time.

On a meta-level, The Lego Movie 2 feels like the natural - if knowingly post-modern - thematic successor to Toy Story. It's never as up-front as Pixar's flagship series and almost seems more believable (if that's the right word) as a result.


As per this film's predecessor (and continuing the theme cemented by Lego Batman between), there are no Marvel characters to be found here. This, despite the Marvel-half of Lego's Super Heroes line being a mainstay of their licensing model. Instead we get appearances by the Justice League in full comic effect, with Warner Bros going so far as to rope in Jason Momoa*2 for light voicework.

Indeed, Marvel are written out of the proceedings early doors with one cheeky line of dialogue. But not content to leave that where it lies, shortly after we have our hero (voiced by Chris Pratt, remember), blasting off into space for an adventure aboard his new ship, and talking to his plant as a co-pilot. Well, quite.


And the playfulness with the leading man's back-catalogue doesn't stop there. A fairly telegraphed but still eminently satisfying sub-plot sees his character introducing a rapid succession of character-cards, each boldly proclaiming skills in a CV of previous adventures. Most of these appear to be nods to the actor's work in other movies (most notably the velociraptors, of course).

It's a testament to the sold writing that there's plenty here for a young audience, their associated grown-ups and the happy-go-lucky film geeks who've rocked up anyway. The Lego Movie 2 is absolutely packed with Easter eggs and is all the better for it.


We're living through a golden age of animation of course, and we should stop for a moment to fully appreciate the craft of the Lego movies. Whereas the multitude of the corporation's TV-based features feature expressive, 'bendy' character models with working knees and elbows, the cinematic strand has used elements far closer to the relatively rigid toys themselves (with some artistic license).

Along with photorealistic plastic texturing, their blocky structure and appropriately restricted movement is a faultless CGI simulation of traditional stop-animation, and I don't think that gets enough credit. The animators have deliberately placed this obstacle in their own path, making them work harder to achieve the same fluid level of visual storytelling, while also achieving an end result which looks closer to the actual store-bought Lego toys (did I mention that this beautiful film is also a two hour advert?)*3.

But let's not dig too deeply into the toy box. Irrespective of your chronological-age, if you like Lego™, you'll get a lot out of The Lego Movie 2. If you don't, well…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, The Lego Movie.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It certainly earns a place near the top of everyone's list.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
It's possible I suppose, although you'd have to be a hardened cynic to really get nothing out of this.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Well, the film was written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, formerly of the Solo parish, but since they left that production under something of a cloud, I suppose we'll have to go with this movie starring that uncredited Stormtrooper from The Force Awakens.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Anyway, I navigate my life by the release of Star Wars movies (as those of you who've met me will attest), so all 2014 means to me is "before The Force Awakens". Although I suppose I could meet them half-way and call it "before The Force Awakens Lego". [ BACK ]

*2 Interestingly (or predictably, depending on how you look at it), the powers-that-be have opted for the new bearded, shirtless version of Aquaman, rather than the more traditional model they're still happy to use elsewhere. No judgement in that, just an observation. [ BACK ]

*3 Although like some of the Transformers movies, it's an advert which doesn't hold its own audience in absolute, unvarnished contempt. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.