Perhaps the most surprising critical hit of the past decade, The Lego Movie did the impossible in 2014 by disproving the cynical rule that commercial product movies have to be soulless. Sugary to the extreme, the film launched a yellow brick franchise that in just five years transgressed from novel to tired. To this end, Mike Mitchell’s follow up to the original – The Second Part – has some major ground to regain for the sake of the franchise’s ongoing longevity. Oddly – for what is essentially a rehash – he’s managed a very genuine success.
Though they’ve resigned from directorial duties – in favour of the Spider-Verse – Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to write and produce the sequel, which retains their sharp but affectionate satirical voices. Referential jibes target viewers of all ages, with preschool values happily accepting an old school sensibility. Nods to the likes of Hot Tub Time Machine and the three Batman movies ‘in various stages of development’ will surely soar several leagues over the heads of youngsters but play right into the hands of parents. That’s not to say this isn’t a film for juniors by any means. The Second Part is even more musical than its predecessor – bringing an all new catchy pop hit into play – and would struggle to be brighter or breezier. A relatively lightweight plot shouldn’t challenge tots either, even as a time bending twist sends things left field in the film’s semi-logical final act.
Opening pretty much exactly where the first film left off, The Second Part swiftly catapults five years forward and into a dystopian future. Bricksburg – now named Apocalypseburg – has been lain waste by invading Duplo aliens and its citizens have hardened in reflection of their brooding existence. Only sweet and simple master builder Emmet (Chris Pratt) remains upbeat, even as his dreams become swamped by foreboding visions of the ‘Armamageddon’. Emmet’s relentless resolve is challenged, however, when his best friends find themselves kidnapped by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and transported through the Stairgate and into the pastel coloured Systar System. There, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) awaits with a scheme that can surely only lead to trouble.
In the cosmic chaos of its delirious plot and comic joys, it would be easy to overlook the technical skill behind The Lego Movie 2. Even more so than last time, the film boasts quite incredible animation. Visual novelties sit with genial ease against a surprising realist quality, with textures so tangible that one might even compare this to stop motion. While light ripples from the Lego folk, sticky fingerprints glisten on their Duplo counterparts. Intersecting live-action segments are captured through a more psychedelic lens than before and it’s never entirely clear whether the characters are able to move freely in the context of the film. From a production stand point, however, it’s hard to believe that they are not.
Whereas The Lego Batman Movie offered constant hilarity, this is a more chucklesome affair and benefits from a less breathless structure. Cracking gags are peppered through Lord and Miller’s script – ‘I invented the phrase no regrets. Although I do have one regret of not trademarking it’ – but it’s the emotional core that sticks in the memory. For a story concerned with talking bricks, the film is remarkably well tuned to the beats of a brother’s love-hate relationship with his meddlesome younger sister and a collectivist message proves to be all to relevant to modern times. Incidentally, that song really will get inside your heeeaaad.