Everything is still awesome. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), directed by Mike Mitchell, is emerging as a witty, moving, and solidly entertaining sequel to the beloved first installment. The film picks up five years after the events of The LEGO Movie (2014). The audience has been let in on the knowledge that the LEGO universe is the creative projection of a boy named Finn’s LEGO set in the real world. We follow the LEGO figure Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) as he maintains his youthful, but unrelenting optimism in Finn’s older and grittier LEGO world, now called Apocalypseburg. When invaders from the mysterious planet Duplo come and abduct his friends, Emmet’s bright personality is challenged by the bigger and badder stakes that have been laid out for him. Although the film does suffer slightly from being a plot-reliant sequel, it still holds its own as one of Phil Lord & Christopher Miller’s great pieces of work, and maintains itself as a film that presents a lesson for everyone watching.
The writing is just as fourth-wall breaking and self-aware as the first one, and this comes across perfectly managed. It worked then, and it works now. Although Lord & Miller aren’t at the director’s helm this time around, their presence in the writing is still apparent and valued. Both writers demonstrate a mastery of the comedy genre, basking in bathos to get good laughs and knowing when to reign it in for the dramatic moments we need. Juggling between the two is difficult, and often leads to over-saturated scripts. The two consistently manage to balance it remarkably well, and it’s ultimately what makes this film easily watchable for kids and adults alike. In the same light, the only downside is predictability, especially to those familiar with their work. This is frequently an unavoidable flaw when aiming for a younger audience, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Lord & Miller will hopefully continue to give us comedy excellence all the same.
When presented with a completely CGI film, it’s easy to take the actor’s performances for granted, since much of the character persona we feel on screen can be attributed to the animators. Even if just the voice, the actor’s craft should never be ignored, and that reigns true here. Chris Pratt takes on both the roles of Emmet and the newly introduced Rex Dangervest, and knocks both of them out of the park. Any fans of NBC’s TV mockumentary Parks & Recreation will know Pratt to be a comedy presence, and he continues to provide hilarious delivery with his voice alone. Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett reprise their roles of allies Wyldstyle and Batman respectively, and easily hold par with Pratt. Newcomer Tiffany Haddish does an excellent job of playing the odd LEGO Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, and gives the film a nice, fresh dose of a Disney-style musical. No performances stuck out, and all of them blended together smoothly and tastefully.
Stylistically, the film is consistent with the level of quality we were presented with in the first installment. The stop-motion style of animation is gorgeous, the LEGO character models both stunning and riveting with detail, and the world-building just as vibrant as ever. Although it is mostly entirely CGI, the animation used makes you feel like they’re just little tiny figures running around in this microworld. Although it’s logical to assume animation technology will improve as time goes on, the time and effort shown to be present should be praised nonetheless.
Even though the writing, performances, and visuals are spectacular, what will deter a sizeable portion of the general audience is the film’s marketing and promotion as a kid’s movie. This is difficult to refute, as the entire plot revolves around an adolescent’s experience with his toy LEGOs. However, essential lessons that both adults and children can understand are sewn into the film’s thread. Learning the importance of communication, cooperation, and trust (especially at a young age) are planted deep into the plot and into Lord & Miller’s writing. I would argue that these are skills that even most fully grown adults haven’t mastered, and in a “grown-up” world driven by money and violence, a kid’s movie might give us the innocent insight of the things that are truly important. Films are meant to entertain, yes, but there’s nothing better than exiting a theater with something you can take with you.