Latest LEGO Movie lacks originality and entertainment of first film

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Every movie that follows in the path of 2014’s The LEGO Movie will have to contend with its legacy. The first in a series of who-knows-how-many spin-offs and sequels, the movie was able to surprise audiences and entertain at the speed of multiple laughs-per-minute while capturing a meaningful emotional resonance.

As the fourth in Warner Bros.’ Lego movie world, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part finds itself stuck in its predecessor’s shadow.

The Second Part is an apt subtitle, considering how close together the original LEGO Movie and this sequel are. Part two picks up immediately where the 2014 movie ended and then time-jumps five years to close the gap.

Plastic doesn’t age much in five years, but the wear of being played with often can be seen in some characters’ costumes. Emmet Brickowski, hero of the first film, returns with his pals to the world of their plastic sandbox.

In keeping with its predecessor’s aesthetic, the materials in The Second Part are all made to look like Legos that are part of a stop-motion film. The LEGO Movie revealed that the world of its story was a playset stuck between a father and son’s conception of what could be done with construction toys, and the sequel continues to use that conceit as an integral part of the storytelling.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller return as screenwriters, with Mike Mitchell directing. Lord and Miller have made a name for themselves with snappy comedy and meta references in the Jump Street series and the original LEGO Movie, but The Second Part is missing some of that spark.

With Lord and Miller heavily involved in the wonderful Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — still in theaters — it’s impossible to say that the sequel suffers just because of a five-year gap and the difficulty of living up to a breakout hit’s success.

If anything, The Second Part suffers most because of how closely it adheres to The LEGO Movie from a thematic perspective. Where the first film surprised, the second lacks subtlety and goes in an obvious direction.

Where the first took risks, the second gets stuck in a creative rut. The LEGO Movie teased a sequel with the introduction of a new Lego playmate and the children’s line of Duplo construction toys. The sequel picks that thread up and finds a solution not far from the first film’s own issues.

Fans should not expect a film with no laughs; The Second Part still outshines the mediocre The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Five years after the Duplo blocks’ appearance, the Lego world enters apocalypse mode and begins to blatantly resemble the setting of the dystopian Mad Max.

Emmet has trouble adjusting to the brooding demands of living in a sand-covered wasteland, while other characters like Wyldstyle — mostly known in the sequel by her birth name of Lucy — Unikitty, Benny the astronaut and MetalBeard the pirate manage to adapt.

There are fun jokes and the way the movie addresses Emmet’s lack of adaptation finds a fun outlet in the introduction of Rex Dangervest. These jokes, though, lack the life of the film’s predecessor.

Often, jokes get repeated or are held on to for too long. Other times, the only source of humor is from external references. As fun as they may be, the inclusion of Back to the Future's Doc Brown or Aquaman's Aquaman is not enough to carry an entire movie.

The Second Part plays like the studio executive follow-up to a movie that earned over $250 million, without a full understanding of what made the original so great. One scene from The LEGO Movie had a significant number of cameos from characters of various universes. The Second Part is chock-full of these moments, but they don’t hold water to the wackiness and out-of-left field nature of The LEGO Movie’s jokes. Fans of the original should go in with the expectation of a lazy stepping-on-Lego joke, which happens twice.

The Second Part does have the daring to step it up a notch with the introduction of Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi. Her song, “Not Evil” is as much a show-stopper as the movie’s new earworm and “Catchy Song” does its best to fit the gap left behind by 2014’s “Everything is Awesome.”

With more music than the previous film, The Second Part even offers an exciting song for the credits’ roll, notably featuring The Lonely Island.

Like with The LEGO Ninjago Movie: The Second Part would be much better if its predecessor didn’t exist, leaving viewers with a pretty good movie to enjoy once or twice and the question of what might’ve been.

ArtsBenjamin WallinComment