Verily, this Lego Movie series – perhaps aside from Ninjago – has proven to be beyond solid entertainment. The first (my favorite film of that year) was, among other things, a manifesto against “the powers that be” and a screed for compromise in the vein of the classic silent Metropolis. And Lego Batman, in the age of the Snyder-Verse, was a self-aware, self-reflective, and ultimately strong arc for a character who broods too often and changes very little. How might a Second Part be expressed? How best to do so? The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part keeps the pace going by following the same beat and pulling on similar heartstrings, even while and despite the fact that the formula is easier to follow and the seams are easier to see. Not that the seams are popping here, but things to pop, and in more ways than one.
It might be more appropriate to call this anti-pop, actually. Or rather cynical-but-endearing-towards-pop. The Lego Movie 2 follows Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Lucy/WildStyle (Elizabeth Banks) immediately following the events of the first movie, where an alien invasion (lead by the sister of a young boy playing with his legos) has overtaken Bricksburg. Now, a hardened wasteland, Emmet struggles to shed his naivete all the while going on a mission to save his friends from an ever-evolving threat. Pratt continues to play Emmet with a hopeful/hopelessly optimistic edge, one committed 100% and absolutely charming. In this sequel, Pratt is tasked with a new character (a variation of and reference to his many live-action roles) named Rex, who, by comparison to Emmet, is hyper-masculine and a tad grating (though this is by design). Pratt switches back and forth with awkward ease, which eventually gives way to an important and unexpected revelatory arc of sorts.
Thematically speaking, The Second Part is its own response to #TimesUp and diversity/inclusivity/sharing. The story bounces to Lucy often, who has been kidnapped (along with Batman and others) by a female alien force looking to “brainwash” the Universe with overt expressions of love that border on sensory overload. Meanwhile, Rex harps on Emmet for being soft and makes it a mission to teach him a stone cold attitude. Nothing about The Second Part is subtle and yet, everything is. From glitter bombs to super-catchy songs, every element – from dialogue to environment – is amped up so heavily, that it almost feels #TooMuchTooSoon. Which, of course, is the point.
Whose shoes are we in at the beginning? Whose perspective are we experiencing? Are we on the wrong side of things? Do we have a misunderstanding on our hands? The Second Part flips the script so hard that it almost changes the nature of its original. Almost, but that’s ok. Dismantle the patriarchy and work together, I say. Break apart the monuments of old and build new ones, indeed. #TooSoon? #MoreOften, really. “Everything is Awesome!” remains a battle cry, but is recognized here as being problematic for different reasons, both convenient and inconvenient, before coming back around and tuning into a new connotation. It’s stark raving mad just how sharp the writing is, and how the performances and design range from overblown to just right and then some.
Maybe The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part wasn’t always and totally “awesome;” there are a few scenes where I found myself wanting to doze off or pull my hair out. In the face of negative space, The Lego Movie 2 finds a way to break through the occasional tedium and make something I’d like to launch into infinity, as a message from us Earthlings. Whatever nitpicks there be, its expression of the good in all of us and the hope for hope and change are as wonderfully realized as they are genuinely held. Straight up, the pop pops on, and for all of us. What’s wrong with nodding your head to the beat? Nothing.
RATING: 4 / 5
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part plays across the Greater New Orleans area starting today.
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved.