The team behind The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part tries very, very hard to replicate the success of their unexpected smash hit The Lego Movie (2014). Yet they fail to capture again what made the earlier animated adventure so captivating: surprise.
If it sounds unfair to expect a sequel to be surprising, that falls squarely on the filmmakers who agreed to make it, including Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who returned to write the screenplay, and director Mike Mitchell, whose previous animated credits include Shrek Forever After and Trolls. (He also helmed the live-action films Sky High (2005) and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999), among others.)
The sequel brings back eternally optimistic construction worker Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) and the wildly imaginative Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks). Invaders from space decimated the city of Bricksburg and then vanished, returning periodically to wreck more damage.
Five years later, things are no better; indeed, the tag line “everything is awesome” no longer applies. General Sweet Mayhem (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) returns, this time to recruit Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) to marry the foreign Queen (voiced by Tiffany Haddish). When Batman refuses, Mayhem kidnaps him, along with Lucy and others, whisking them away to a distant planet.
Left behind in Bricksburg, where things became so terrible in the wake of the first invasion that it was renamed Apocalypseburg, Emmet finally decides he must refuse his one true love, Lucy, and so he blasts off into space. There he meets Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), a stubble-faced Han Solo type of character, and the two decided to team up to rescue Lucy, Batman and the others.
As with The Lego Movie, the sequel doesn’t have much of a narrative until its third act, but it looks super-busy throughout, with singing/dancing sequences and characters and, naturally, plenty of one-liners, as might expected of Lord and Miller’s script. (They are also producers this time.) The animation is top-rate, and Mark Mothersbaugh’s musical score is once again bouncy, with a pleasant abundance of minor chords to darken the mood and tone, as needed.
The cast, notably Alison Brie, Nick Offerman and Charlie Day, get to show their talent in bringing characters to life with their voices. A few cameos also supply sparks of joy.
Too often, though, the movie feels like it’s moving through mud. That has less to do with the general pace of things — it’s always zippy and, if anything, too active and working too hard to try and distract — than with the lack of a compelling premise.
Eventually, the intended message for children shoves its way back on stage, but by that point, the intended audience may be dozing. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is fine for what it is, a sequel that doesn’t really have a reason to exist, except that a lot of people liked the first film and so a lot of people will pay to see a sequel.
Economic realities play a big role in what gets made in Hollywood, of course. Facing that, I wish the filmmakers had come up with a few new twists to freshen up what has become an old hat.
The film will open in theaters through Dallas on Friday, February 8, 2019.