Remember when The Lego Movie came out in 2014, and how we all thought it would be the cinematic equivalent of cheap plastic — only to end up laughing our asses off at how meta-clever it was at skewering brand culture? And remember how, in 2017, The Lego Batman Movie turned out to be almost as fantastic because Will Arnett voiced the Dark Knight as such a delusional, egomaniacal freak? (We’ll kindly skip over The Lego Ninjago Movie, which was such a repetitive bummer.)
So is The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part as good as those first two movies? Not really: Few things take the bloom off an original concept like a sequel. But Lego 2 has an irresistible knack for throwing things at the screen with a wild abandon that recalls what writer-directors Chris Miller and Philip Lord brought to the brick-by-brick party five years. It should. They wrote the screenplay, with Mike Mitchell (Trolls) directing. It’s instructive to think back on how Miller and Lord got fired from directing Solo and then the world saw the blandest of Star Wars stories — how we wished we could have seen what this prankish pair would have done with it. You’ll get delicious hints here, which references the fantasy worlds of The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey in wickedly funny ways.
Here’s the setup: Since we said goodbye construction worker Emmett Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) and to the good people of Bricksburg, everything is no longer awesome. In the live-action world, Finn (Jaden Sand) and his sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince of The Florida Project) are gamers at each other’s throats. Bianca’s Lego Duplo characters are now space invaders who’ve turned Bricksburg into Apocalypseburg, whose citizens look like Fury Road refugees. The gang includes Unikitty (Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), and Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who doesn’t think Emmet is man enough to take on marauders from Systar. That’s the planet led by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and ruled by Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who hijacks the gang to attend her wedding to a very reluctant Batman. And to save the kidnapped Lucy, a new character enters the fold: His name is Rex Dangervest. He’s the macho opposite of Emmet and he’s also voiced by Pratt, with the star voicing him like a combo of all the action heroes he’s played in epics from Jurassic World to Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s hilarious.
It’s a drag when the movie pauses to deliver moral lessons about the need to grow up and deal with the world when it’s not awesome. Luckily, the pauses get fewer and fewer. And the good times roll as we watch this Lego menagerie dig itself out of an existential mess. It’s really just an excuse for our dynamic screenwriting duo to pack in jokes that won’t quit, as well as referencing everyone from Superman and teen vampires to Abraham Lincoln and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s even a new song called “Catchy Song” that you can’t get out of your head no matter how hard you try. (And you will try.) Another tune, “Super Cool,” plays over the end credits simply to extol the coolness of end credits. Lego 2 never stops, which is part of the problem. Can there really be too much of a good thing? [Pause.] Nah.