Back in 2014 we were introduced to the cinematic world of Lego and since then we have had three movies of varying success showing that despite the awkwardly shaped hair they can be characters too. While I didn’t enjoy 2017’s Lego Batman Movie, the opening movie was new, original and particularly funny thanks to Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s fourth wall breaking script. The 2nd Lego movie follows the same route while injecting a smartly progressive message into its story and still manages to feel repetitive and oddly flat.
The Second Part follows everyman Emmet (Chris Pratt) who is faced with a brave new world when mysterious invaders take Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the rest of his friends and he is forced to chase after them. Along the way he recruits the help of tough man Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) to rescue his friends from the new dangers they face and show him how to toughen up to a new world he doesn’t understand or fit in.
Much like with The Lego Movie, this is a visually stunning extravaganza and director Mike Mitchell has a sharp eye when it comes to pacing and building character through his visuals. Not only is the action fast paced and effective but it adds a sense of urgency that its predecessor lacked. Here there are actual stakes, something re-enforced by a fake ending (a trend I mostly loathe thanks to its poor usage in films like Vice) that serves actual purpose and persuades you that this universe isn’t above disappointment and heartbreak.
Mitchell however is dealt a rough hand as he must follow-up a film full of visual comedy devised by two of Hollywood’s best comic minds. While some of the jokes work here, they have to push harder against the memory of what came before. Lord and Miller (still writers here) crafted a film that leaned heavily into the comic value to be found in the novelty of their film. Because this novelty factor has worn off for both children and adults, The Second Part has to try that much harder for legitimacy, even though it shouldn’t. Despite some impressive character development there is an inherent deficit.
While the notion of Lego characters and their world being serious film material has been tried and tested it wasn’t the sole defining feature of a series that has pushed boundaries in terms of what makes good cinema. While Mitchell’s film has to stretch itself further it does have a sense of fun and you only have to look so far as Jon Lajoie’s entertaining song writing as they all serve a purpose while feeling quite as forceful as the first movies, oftentimes nauseating soundtrack. Not only does the lively ditty ‘Catchy Song’ do exactly what it tells you its going to but the finishing song ‘Super Cool’ by Beck serves as a nice little meta approach to closing out the film.
While some of the fourth wall breaks feel out-of-place and some choice references to the voice actors other work seem to add very little, The Lego Movie 2 is an entertaining sequel struggling against some ingrained notions of what it should be and what we expect from an animated follow-up. Despite a lacklustre opening that stalls the film from really getting started there is more hidden away that keeps it from sinking under the watermark it has to force itself above.
This is more than a sequel, it serves as a film about growing up and what that really should mean. While the idea of growing up proves to be one of the most overplayed notions in all of cinema, there is a reason it keeps reappearing as it is something we can all relate to. Here though it is approached naturally and in a surprisingly fresh way as it isn’t so much about learning a new way of doing things but embracing what makes growing older great. From the empathy and understanding that comes from self-knowledge to appreciating your own flaws, Mitchell allows this message to flow naturally throughout the film.
In spite of all this, The Lego Movie 2 faces an uphill battle and while I was watching it I kept running into the same word when it came to describing it to people and unfortunately that word is serviceable. It carries out what is expected of it. It has a clear style and a message and some ‘catchy’ tunes but that is what was needed/wanted from it. While it is easy to enjoy parts of it, it never makes itself enough of a singular entity, a movie in and of itself, which makes it only serviceable.