‘Lego Movie 2’s’ humor and heart are genuine, mostly satisfying

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R FILM CRITIC
Posted 2/7/19

While everything isn’t awesome about the redundantly titled “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” the Lord & Miller-penned sequel still pulsates with the wit and energy of its …

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‘Lego Movie 2’s’ humor and heart are genuine, mostly satisfying

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Posted

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part 

Grade: B

Director: Mike Mitchell

Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish and Stephanie Beatriz

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hr. 47 mins.

While everything isn’t awesome about the redundantly titled “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” the Lord & Miller-penned sequel still pulsates with the wit and energy of its predecessor.

Picking up five years after “The Lego Movie,” the story dovetails off that film’s literal and metaphorical family dynamics. (There’s also an allusion to the intervening “Lego Batman Movie,” just to let you know it took place, while the film wisely pretends “The Lego Ninjago Movie” never happened.) The “Lego Movie” revolved around the relationship between a father and son, particularly along the fault line between discipline and creativity. Knowing the audience is now wise to the film’s allegorical construct, the follow-up openly shifts its focus to the even more fractious rapport between brothers and sisters (and, by extension, men and women).

The now-preteen Finn (reprised by Jadon Sand) is still erecting elaborate Lego creations in his family’s basement, but his little sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”) is now old enough to want to play, too. With Finn rebuffing her intrusion into his carefully crafted milieu, Bianca starts sneaking Legos and other toys upstairs to play with in her room. These “invasions” have turned Bricksburg into a post-apocalyptic, “Mad Max: Fury Road”-like wasteland named Apocalypseburg. While denizens like Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), now a Furiosa fill-in, have hardened to their harsh environment, chipper master builder Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) remains optimistic about, well, everything, including a new ranch home where he and Lucy can live happily ever after.

However, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) again raids Apocalypseburg, kidnapping Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett), and others to transport them to the “Systar System” (get it?), a world of sparkles, rainbows, and Hello Kittys. There, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), a Duplo shapeshifting horse, hopes to engineer a “matrimonial ceremony” between herself and Batman that Emmet fears will bring about the “Ar-mom-ageddon” (still get it?) and the Legos’s descent into the dreaded “bin of stor-ahj.” He ventures into the Sistar System to save the day, assisted by a hunky deus ex machina named Rex Dangervest, a raptor-training, vest-wearing space raider, also voiced by Pratt and an amalgam of Pratt’s action movie roles in “Jurassic World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and elsewhere.

“Lego Movie 2” is more of a musical, with the songs both well-conceived and well-written. Wa’Nabi’s shines in a couple of numbers, a Disney-esque anthem protesting that she’s not a villainess and another flirtatious tune about how she’s “not really into Gotham City guys.” And then there’s the self-explanatory “Catchy Song,” a formulaic girl pop ditty used to indoctrinate Sistar System strangers whose lyrics accurately warn that “this song’s gonna get stuck inside your head.”

The pop cultural references whiz by at breakneck speed, and “Lego Movie 2’s” humor and heart are both genuine and satisfying. Still, there’s an unavoidable loss of the surprise and discovery that fueled the first “Lego Movie.” The returning characters’ traits feel frayed and overly familiar, even the narcissistic, brooding Batman. The fresh air is left to newcomers like Haddish and Maya Rudolph, who appears late as the overseeing Mom who proclaims, in typical meta-joke fashion, “I’m not the bad guy in this story; I’m just an amusing side character.” Meanwhile, “Trolls” director Mike Mitchell’s task of both revisting and augmenting the “Lego” universe fosters an over-caffeinated, less streamlined milieu. These latter-day Legos eventually snap into place, but it takes a while for all the pieces to fit.

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