Remember back in 2014 when everything was awesome? Well, maybe not everything. But back when the world wasn’t a never-ending hellscape of breaking news and unpredictability? It’s hard to believe it’s been almost half a decade since The Lego Movie defied all expectations by becoming a legitimately great comedy based on building block toys. With the long-awaited sequel, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, returning screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller present a toy world where everything is no longer awesome as it once was, and yet still find the joy in a world where everything has understandably become a living nightmare.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part begins right where The Lego Movie concluded, with the aliens from the planet Duplo arriving to cause havoc on Bricksburg. After years of war with the Duplo invaders, Bricksburg has become Apocalpyseburg – essentially Mad Max: Fury Road’s desert landscape, but with tiny little figures and sewer babies. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is still as optimistic as ever, despite Duplo destroying everything new that is created in their world. When the rest of the Master Builders are bricknapped from Apocalpyseburg, Emmet must set off to save his friends from these mysterious new captors.
In his quest to save his friends, Emmet teams up with Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), a character who is very much based on Pratt’s film characters since the first Lego Movie. As Emmet heads off to save his friends, the Master Builders meet the head of the Duplo who have stolen them, morphing Princess Watevra Wan’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish).
The first Lego Movie almost had to justify its existence by giving the film a spirit of exploration and discovery that playing with Legos can sometimes achieve. Any situation could be solved by the sudden appearance of Star Wars characters or advice from Lego Abraham Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte, a nod to Lord & Miller’s brilliant Clone High). With The Lego Movie 2, this sense of unexpected surprises is lessened a bit. The sequel still features a nice collection of cameos and reminders of just how many Lego sets exist in the real world, but instead, it’s the world of Duplo characters that take over. These cutesy characters are similar to the younger voiced characters of South Park, and their adorable voices placed over complete destruction never gets old.
Plus, the introduction of Duplo brings with it its own set of fun new characters. Along with Haddish, who fits in perfectly with this new cast, Stephanie Beatriz is Princess Wan’Nabi’s muscle, General Mayhem, while Ben Schwartz is Banarnar, a banana who can’t quit tripping over his own peel. Richard Ayoade voices an ice cream cone, and Jason Momoa plays Aquaman – complete with “My man!” catchphrase.
The Lego Movie 2 also plays off the idea that the first film was such a massive hit, and doubles down on some of the most well-known surprises of the original. For example, The Lego Movie 2 goes all-in on catchy ear worms that’ll stay in your brain long after leaving the theater, like the fittingly titled T-Pain track, “Catchy Song.” Thankfully, the music here is arguably better than before, with additions by Beck, Robyn, Superorganism, and a brilliant end-credits song by The Lonely Island.
The Second Part also keeps going with the idea that there is a real world “God” that is controlling these characters. While the first film was just the adventures of Finn (Jadon Sand), the attack of the Duplos his led by his sister Bianca (The Florida Project’s Brooklynn Prince). Much of the actual plot in the Lego universe revolves around the actions of the real world, and when The Lego Movie 2 has to explain everything that has occurred in the real world, the film sputters to a halt, before ignoring that it doesn’t make all that much sense to begin with. The film quickly rebounds from this narrative speed bump to craft a satisfying conclusion that combines these worlds quite well, but it does remind me that this isn’t as tightly constructed as the last film.
However, with their sequels Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and 22 Jump Street, Lord and Miller have shown that they’d rather try something completely different and break the mold than simply do the same thing over again, and that’s exactly what they do with The Lego Movie 2. The optimism of the original is taken over by a realist viewpoint, a realization that everything might not still be awesome, but great things can come from the challenge in making things better. The Lego Movie 2 might not be quite as awesome, and it might struggle somewhat in achieving the same level of wonder that the first did, but in the end, The Lego Movie 2 still ends up being awesome, just in its own unique way.