The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part - Review
Absurdity and creativity are out the window in favor of unfulfilling world-building.
The days are long, the week is hard. There is little relief for the tedium of daily life, never enough to satisfy. This is when we look to the movies, a place to escape into for an evening. The buttered popcorn, the goofy jokes. A night at the self-serious cinema can wait; tonight, it is The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.
When The Lego Movie released in 2014, it looked like it was going to herald a new age for children’s movies with heart, or at least a sense of humor. Absurdist, emotional, colorful; that new age never came, and the world has been left wanting. Where is the inviting new vision, the eye-popping grandeur? The risky creativity that resulted in one of the best films of 2014? 2018 saw the return of The Lego Movie’s directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord (who wrote the script for The Second Part), for the incredible Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s certainly worth it for a team to move onto new ideas rather than rest in established ones, but when the rest of the industry sit on their hands and wait for them to release the next big thing, it leaves movies like The Lego Movie 2 wanting.
The world of The Lego Movie has a unique device that allows it relevance in two worlds. One, the obvious animated land where anything is possible, and two, the real-world that shows children playing with the characters, guiding the story, and sporadically being interrupted by nosy parents. The Lego Movie 2 sees to expand this second universe, in less-than exciting ways. The breakout star of 2017’s The Florida Project, Brooklynn Prince, plays the younger sister who wants to join in on her brother’s fun. Her fusing of the two worlds, one being the grim, post-awesome Apocalypseburg, the other her bright and bubbly utopia, is the film’s catalyst. It’s sound for the the beginning of the film, when things stay simple and rooted in a logic we are used to, but after about 30 minutes, an overarching plot begins to reveal. One that is suspiciously similar to the krazy-gluing of the heroes in the first film. In The Second Part, there is the overbearing fear of Mom (Maya Rudolph), who will put all the toys into storage if the kids can’t play nice. This time, we already know to expect a bridging of the two worlds; it’s exactly what happened in first movie. This makes the tongue-in-cheek puns and allusions to the world-ending event less ominous, and more like cute references.
In its desire to rapidly expand the scope of the technically infinite universe, the film starts to play two different games. One is the fun and reliably absurd nature of the original, and the second is the ambitious crossing of multiple worlds. When The Second Part really indulges in the first game, it’s an incredible ride, and one that often had me wheezing. When it plays the second game, it becomes incompatible with humor; there are many scenes that rely on a visual gimmick, then proceed to dump exposition on the audience until they can cut to something more exciting. It puts the action to a halt, and tries to explain with words what the first film could do in one frame. The newly destroyed Bricksburg, now referred to as Apocalypseburg, is parceled out through conversations, too bleak and uninspired to be entertaining on their own. With a sequel, Miller and Lord had the opportunity to bash on Hollywood’s obsession with sure-thing IP’s, which might have fit perfectly in a film that calls out its own convenient plot devices. Instead, the heavy-handed emotional lessons are dragged out, the world is over-explained, and humor is relegated to specific characters, at specific times. It’s not a total drop off, but there’s a lot about The Second Part that feels like just another kids movie.