The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part had a lot to live up to. The Lego Movie was a phenomenon – a first of it’s kind movie filled to the brim with pop culture references and catchy songs – comprehensible to children but widely enjoyed by adults everywhere. So how could Lego Movie 2 possibly hope to compare?
As it turns out, quite easily. Bringing back the impressive cast of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Will Ferrell (amongst countless others), the film tacks on a host of other A-listers to the sequel; Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Maya Rudolph, and Richard Ayoade, to name a few. Fans of The Florida Project are also in for a happy surprise with the casting of Brooklynn Prince as the youngest sibling and owner of the pastel coloured Duplo introduced at the end of the first film.
This Duplo is the crux of The Lego Movie 2. It begins immediately after the end scene of the first film; the new Duplo characters and Emmett meeting in a Close Encounters style set up. All goes well until the the hearts turn into grenades and begin to destroy Bricksburg, one financial building at a time. Amidst the violence, President Business escapes to his golf course retreat (that is not the last Trump joke within the film) and soon Bricksberg is laid to waste by the violent Duplo characters. Cut to five years later – Emmet, Wyldstyle and the gang are living in a Mad Max type apocalypse (with Metalbeard heading up the oil guzzlers). Everything is not awesome anymore.
There’s two distinct story-lines happening in Lego Movie 2. Unlike the first film, more the ‘real’ world is exposed and one of the narratives is based completely on the humans of the film. What was a wry revelation at the end of Lego Movie turns into a complete subplot, which motivates the Lego characters narratives. Finn, the child of Will Ferrell’s Dad, has a younger sister who is desperate to play with him. In her anger at being rejected from the playroom, she steals (“kidnaps”) Wyldstyle, Metalbeard, Uni-Kitty, Batman and Spaceman Benny, taking them through ‘stairgate’ and into the Systar (‘sister’) System.
Naturally, Emmet’s tries to rescue his friends, and along the way there are raptors, time travel sequences, catchy pop tunes and a burning critique of toxic masculinity. In the real world, siblings Finn and Bianca are fighting over their toys and running the risk of having all of them sent to storage (‘stor-ahge’) in the impending our-mom-aggedon.
First and foremost, we should all be thanking casting director Mary Hidaglo for bringing together some of the funniest and most versatile actors working today. It’s impossible to pinpoint who is at the best here, but Tiffany Haddish’s shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi has to be at the top of the list. From the suspiciously earnest vocals of ‘Not Evil’ to the hilarious ‘Gotham City Boys’, Haddish lends an authenticity to Wa’Nabi that works on multiple levels. Though Emmett may be the star of the film, Will Arnett’s Batman gets a lot of screentime – possibly due to the success of Lego Batman – and the matrimonial/love story between him and Wa’Nabi is definitely a highlight.
There are moments where it feels like Lego Movie 2 is taking it’s time, but when it arrives it really does land. Emmet’s time travelling alter-ego Rex Dangervest is an incarnation of Emmett’s worst insecurities, coupled with the trauma of being abandoned under the dryer. Rex teaches Emmet to break not build, and fills his head with conspiracies about brainwashing to try and get him to abandon his friends. The opposition to this violence is Bianca’s Duplo as it turns out they really do want to be friends with Emmet and the gang (even Wa’Nabi who, as it turns out, is just awkwardly honest). Rex disappearing is a metaphor for Finn rejecting the unemotional, tough-guy mindset that so many boys are taught is the right way to behave.
Though the time travel element and Rex Dangervest are not entirely without issue (if the plot points are motivated by the humans, where did Rex come from and how do Emmet and Rex move unaided), The Lego Movie 2 just about holds it together to result a coherent message about violence, toxic masculinity and the importance of friendship and kindness.
Maybe it didn’t reach the dizzying heights of The Lego Movie, the distinct lack of marketing feels slightly odd here, but The Lego Movie 2 still has a lot to give. It’s full of heart, meta-jokes and even a Ruth Bader-Ginsberg figurine. The credits are worth a watch on their own – I’m glad they are finally getting recognition as the best part of any movie.
Oh, and ‘Catchy Song’ is definitely stuck inside my he-e-e-a-a-d.