Film Editor Todd Waugh Ambridge discovers The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is almost as fun and imaginative as the 2014 iconic original
In the past year we’ve had two animated sequels – The Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet – that are completely reasonable cartoonish adventures, but that ultimately pale in comparison to their inventive predecessors. As the lights dimmed for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part I recalled the surprise hit that the original was. Somehow, director-screenwriter combo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller made a film that was as creative as the construction toy they perfectly translated to screen. The Lego Movie was not just a great kids’ movie, it was also a nostalgia trip for any LEGO fan – and had enough wit and heart to keep everyone happy. The spinoff The Lego Batman Movie was also a success, whereas The Lego Ninjago Movie was a bit pants. And so, the franchise has returned to its roots, but with a different director at the helm I was fully prepared for a functional-but-forgettable sequel. In actuality, it turns out The Second Part is almost as fun and imaginative as the first – if not quite as focused or original.
Continuing on from the end of the first film, the childish Lego world of Bricksburg has matured into a Mad Max-esque ‘cool dystopia’ called Apocalypseburg. While most characters adapt to this change easily, the easy-going every-guy Emmet (Chris Pratt) retains his naïve outlook. However, after Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) are kidnapped by suspiciously girly-girl alien invaders (franchise newcomers Stephanie Beatriz and Tiffany Haddish), Emmet has to grow up to save them.
The first half of the film feels unfocused, as if trying too hard to get a laugh from the audience and reference the iconic original. Some of the explosive action sequences and cheesy musical numbers mark the tendency for sequels to be bigger and zanier for the original, and in this instance that just is not needed. This half of the film also caters to a much younger audience, with exploding stars with ‘too cute’ baby voices throwing up rainbows; a gag that just wouldn’t have fit in the wittier original. But once The Second Part settles in – especially when the side-splitting Rex Dangervest turns up with his army of raptors – it finds its own rhythm that defines itself as hilarious and interesting in its own right. The visuals are also a return to form for the franchise. The two aforementioned spinoffs did not have quite the same stop-motion-esque quality that the original had, but this sequel brings that homemade style back in abundance.
The Second Part’s narrative success can be attributed to the return of Lord and Miller as screenwriters. One of the best parts of The Lego Movie was the revelation that the film was taking place inside a young boy’s mind as he played with the LEGO toys his dad treated like museum relics. This witty, heartfelt take on how different people approach creativity in different ways was at the film’s core. Thus, the sequel has an uphill struggle to create an emotional centre as memorable this time around. Lord and Miller decide to re-tread some of the same ground, albeit with a shift of focus from father-son to sibling rivalry. Each scene is seemingly written from one sibling’s perspective, a novel cinematic feature that is not immediately obvious. Some scenes are framed from an older brother’s point of view – full of pop-culture references and action scenes – while others reflect a younger sister’s perspective – with songs, sparkles and more silliness. As this becomes more apparent in the second half, the narrative and direction of the film becomes more refined and stimulating. Ultimately, without spoiling anything, the story is about the pressure to grow up to be someone you are not. This may sound quite heavy for a kids’ movie, but it is developed delicately and naturally; it never feels like the film is beating you over the head with a message.
VERDICT: After an uncertain first act, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part finds its feet as a funny, heart-warming film for everyone of all ages. If you liked the original, you will enjoy this sequel; it is not quite as original or inventive, but it is just as visually and narratively striking as the modern-classic original.