REVIEW: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Awesome…?

Plunged into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the everyman, Emmet Brickowski, is forced to team up with the brave and fearless, Rex Dangervest, to save his friends from the dreaded Systar System, before the likes of Armamageddon reins down on their world.

Let the record show that I honestly loved the first Lego Movie. An hilarious, satirical comedy adventure that felt smart, witty, inventive and unabashedly creative with an ending so emotionally resonating that the entire film almost, retrospectively, flawed me. Buzzed and excited that outside the realms of Pixar and anime, there were still animation gems being made, I was excited to see where the ingenious minds of filmmakers, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, would take The Lego Movie franchise next. And of course, proceeding The Lego Movie, Lord and Miller have gifted their ingenuity to films like 22 Jump Street (after having also handled the original) and the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (well, at least Phil Lord did) but the duo’s work on the Lego universe has… well, been non-existent.

When The Lego Batman Movie was released two years ago (yes… two years ago, yeesh), I was excited to return to the cinematic Lego world for more meta gold and vibrant animation. It didn’t matter to me that Lord and Miller were only producers, I was just keen to see an animation in the vein of the original Lego Movie but starring Batman – and the film delivered. I rather adored The Lego Batman Movie and would consider it an almost equal to the original Lego Movie… but then came The Lego Ninjago Movie which kind of changed everything. Although nothing was inherently wrong with the entertaining, adventurous Lego Ninjago Movie, the flick showcased cracks in the formula behind the cinematic Lego universe. The Lego Ninjago Movie highlighted the derivative, recycled storylines of the Lego films up to that point and tired audiences of the constant, unnecessary attempts at satirical humour, basically making stale what was, for two films, a winning formula of animated genius. So, now with the release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – a return to the original film that started it all – I hoped that the franchise had learnt its lesson of liberating its narratives and predictable attempts at comedy from the cookie cutter mould to actually, once again, be something unique… but The Lego Movie 2 did not fulfil those hopes for me.

I’m going to come straight out and say it: I didn’t like The Lego Movie 2. I know you could find a few critics who genuinely liked this film, as The Lego Movie 2 visibly sits at an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently, but I have to tell ya’ll the truth and truth is, this movie did nothing for me. Now thought patterns change and I may look back at this review one day and think I was stupid to ever say this, but I truly think The Lego Movie 2 was at the very least on the same level as The Lego Ninjago Movie. The sequel to the 2014 original felt strongly derivative, following the same basic themes as the first with no attempts to really evolve. Sure, the narrative was a bit more “wacky” and a bit more “out-there” but the movie’s ultimate endeavour to boost it’s style felt as though it came at the cost of expanding on its thematic integrity. The comedy was far from fresh or even really that funny in the long run as the biggest problem I think I found with the film was that, in the closing credits, I was shocked to discover that The Lego Movie 2 was actually written and conceptually designed, in narrative, by, none other than, Lord and Miller…

lego-movie-2
(Warner Bros. Pictures, 2019)

To the film’s credit, I have to at least applaud it for its solid animation once again. With energetic colours, assisting to mould a vast and impressive world from vast apocalyptic Mad Max-like landscapes to allusive cosmic pleasures. Although not as creative and original as the animation from previous Lego movies, The Lego Movie 2 still upheld the franchise’s tradition of gorgeous animated frames in motion.

The voice acting also was never short of being “awesome”. Pratt with his happy-go-lucky rendition of Emmet, juxtaposed with his highly, fourth-wall-breaking, characterisation of Rex, channelling an 80s Kurt Russell action hero aesthetic, really breathed life into this otherwise ‘meh’ movie. Elizabeth Banks and Tiffany Haddish also shun in their portrayals of characters, old and new. And also, of course, as always, Will Arnett’s Batman proved pivotal to the film’s overall entertainment value.

Technically, I do not think I could entirely fault The Lego Movie 2 on the merit of its cast and crew seemingly trying to make a fun and involving adventure flick, worthy of following up from its original. And yet, I cannot totally divorce myself from the fact I found this installment into the franchise devastatingly tiring and uninventive in comparison to its predecessor.

Granted, it may just be that I thought so highly of the original Lego Movie and expected Lord and Miller would have been able to cobble together something else in the five years they had to correlate the story and write the script for The Lego Movie 2, but ultimately, the movie felt like a shallow riff on the original.

Whatever unique and resonating analogy of the troubled relationship between a father and his son being explored in the first film through the metaphor of a fantasy Lego world, felt forgotten about and pushed to the back burner. The Lego Movie 2 instead copied and pasted the original’s layout for a ridiculously samey analogy on a turbulent sibling relationship, that, in respects, could have been a natural progression for the story, but not an organic enough follow up on the first film, thematically. I thought there was honestly a lot to gage from the themes of The Lego Movie 2 on siblings growing side by side and learning to play nice, but the theme just felt so heavy handed – no where near as subtle and as well done as the themes of the first Lego Movie. And also to execute this overall theme of the central brother and sister learning to play nice, The Lego Movie 2 would force itself out of the action adventure of its Lego world constantly to service what should have been a more metaphorical story between the brother and sister. The Lego Movie 2 jumped back and forth between the realms of Lego fantasy and pure reality too many times – not only muddying the already blurred lines between either world – but also cheaply revisiting the same means of storytelling and thematic study from the original movie.

To also achieve its finale, The Lego Movie 2 went to some truly whacky places in its narrative to work well in the context of the overarching story and general themes. The whole centre of The Lego Movie 2 could easily be written off upon re-watch, due to its obvious misdirects and poor use of its time. The whole character of Rex, by the end of the movie, became the most contrived and ridiculous excuse for a supporting character to inform Emmet’s growth as the film’s protagonist. The moment it was revealed the truth behind Rex’s identity was the moment I feel I tuned out of the movie completely… I mean, I respect what The Lego Movie 2 was trying to achieve with the character of Rex, but the way they went about it just felt overly silly in an already overly silly movie.

And that is what I think I disliked most about The Lego Movie 2 – it was just silly for the sake of being silly. I realise the 2014 original was light and fluffy in tone with a song like “Everything Is Awesome” pumping at its heart, but even the silliness in that film didn’t feel meaningless. What I essentially mean when I refer to “silliness” in The Lego Movie 2 is mainly its poorly judged comedy. These Lego movies seem to pride themselves on their satirical nature; their meta outlooks on the world allows the filmmakers to poke fun at other elements of pop culture, through either excessive referencing or subtle acknowledgments. Now, that brand of silly, fourth-wall breaking comedy worked originally back in 2014 – mainly because Deadpool was not yet a film – but since then, meta comedy has become the biggest type of humour in Hollywood filmmaking. In the last five years, we now see every character in a film wink at the camera as Ryan Reynolds appears simultaneously on a People Magazine whilst also being front and centre in the frame as the lead actor. Meta comedy can be great comedy… but in small doses. The Lego movies, meanwhile, have capitalised on satire to the point that they could even brand the comedy style – which isn’t a good thing.

The reason the original Lego Movie worked with a satirical voice was because – well firstly it hadn’t been fleshed out as deeply in a Hollywood comedy before – but mostly because Lord and Miller had proven in the past to be veterans of the brand of comedy. In their Jump Street films, satire was a key role in making the laughs big as Lord and Miller seemingly continued their winning formula into 2014’s The Lego Movie. And although Lord and Miller have returned to pen The Lego Movie 2, overall, it just felt as if their style had been so mimicked and warn out to the point, by other filmmakers, that their meta comedy no longer worked. The Lego Movie 2 didn’t feel like a fresh, nuance satirical comedy, but just another film where the screenwriters thought just because they could rattle of references to pop culture, people should laugh. I don’t know about you, but being beaten over the head with rapid fire references to Jurassic World, Marvel, DC, Mad Max, Jason Momoa, Bill & TedDoctor Who, Mystery Inc., The Statue of Liberty, Radiohead and Bruce Willis in Die Hard gets horrifically tiring and dangerously unfunny after a while… I mean, what kid would understand a reference to Radiohead and Bruce Willis? And I know you may say some of the references were there for the adults, but the movie made no effort to cater to adults and children – just children. You see, the beauty of the original Lego Movie was that it struck the perfect blend for the whole family in the realms of comedy, whereas The Lego Movie 2 was just a film for kiddies with minor adult jokes that were so few and far between that they all felt out of place, like the writers were just answering some pop culture trivia.

And I want you to know, I’m not saying movies purely for children are bad, but when you’re first film in a franchise is for the whole family, and the second one’s not… well, what tone are you trying to hit?

To also quickly mention the abysmal annoyance of the end credits musical number, I just could not say I liked The Lego Movie 2. I couldn’t admit I disliked this movie either, but truly did I find myself disappointed. There was just nothing in the movie’s runtime that struck me as interesting and inventive – seriously, some lines in The Lego Movie 2 were lazily pulled straight out of the first film’s script! Sure, the characters were still prevalent and made impactful by their voice actors whilst the animation and most of the themes gelled to make something watchable, but The Lego Movie 2 was too much of a muchness that I couldn’t say I found much awesomeness out of.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, sadly, belongs in the… KINGDOM OF THE CRIMINALLY DULL…

 

Image Sources:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s