Starring: Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
Directed by: Mike Mitchell (“Trolls, Shrek Forever After”)
Written by: Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“The LEGO Movie”)
Dizzily upending the pre-release dread of a film based on a toy line that was bereft of its own characters—they’re BLOCKS, for crying out loud—2014’s “The LEGO Movie” was pure joy from start to finish. Firmly cementing the writing and directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller superstar creators, the film was an unexpected delight, a love letter to creativity from a toy line that long ago seemed to abandon that aspect in favor of building ships from “Star Wars” or castles from “Harry Potter.” And, unlike most non-Disney/Pixar animated fare, the script was peppered with whip-smart jokes and enough meta jokes (the reference to the short-lived LEGO NBA line from the early-2000s might have been directed squarely at me) for to make even the most aloof post-modernist laugh his ass off. Everything was awesome, as the song went.
It’s been five years and two spin-offs, “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie,” were fine and not good, respectively, but we’re finally back to the story of everyman Emmett Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and his friend/chief rescuer/master builder Lucy, a.k.a. Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). After defeating Lord Business (Will Ferrell, who hilariously seems to be phoning in his voice acting this time), the town of Bricksburg was invaded by baby-talking Duplo creatures. We then flash forward half a decade, as the real-world implications of a little sister co-opting her big brother’s LEGO bricks are echoed in Bricksburg, which has transformed into the desolate Apocalypseburg.
Despite everyone else, even Jeff the cat, being hardened into “Mad Max”-style desert dwellers, Emmett remains upbeat and optimistic about moving into his dream house with Lucy. However, his dreams and home are destroyed when the leader of the Duplo army, on orders from Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), kidnaps Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny (Charlie Day) and takes them to the Systar system. Now, it’s up to Emmett and mysterious adventurer Rex Dangervest to save them.
So, is “The LEGO Movie 2” a blast? Yes, it very much is. Is it as good as the first one? Not quite, it takes a while to get going. Is the magic of the reveal—that this is all happening at the whims of people in the real world—missing this time around? Yes. It’s not hard to put together what’s going on, with names like the Systar system, or the ominous warnings of Ar-mom-ageddon. And that’s the price we pay, unfortunately, because the rest of the movie is top notch, and ups the ante on laser-specific jokes. Do you know what it’s like feeling as if you’re the only person a vocal cameo from former Sonic/Laker Gary Payton is meant for? “The Second Part” doesn’t quite stack up to the original, but it’s still light years better than most animated films that most parents would rather step on a LEGO than watch with their kids.