Cinema Dispatch: The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

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The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Everyone loved The LEGO movie, right!?  And then most people loved LEGO Batman, right!?  And then LEGO Ninjago was… okay, right?  Well now it’s time for the return of the one that started it all and it’ll be JUST as good as the original… right?  Sigh… okay, so the trailers for this film haven’t filled me with a whole lot of confidence that it’ll be on the same level as the original film.  It looks FINE if nothing else, but this is THE LEGO MOVIE!  We don’t just want fine, we want PHENOMENAL!  Then again, maybe that’s putting too much pressure on this film which doesn’t have the benefit of being such an out of the blue surprise, and while the trailers aren’t inspiring me with a lot of hope, maybe they’ll find a new angle to take it in that’ll make up for not being able to put the genie back in the bottle!  Can this sequel be Justas good if not better than the first film, or has the LEGO phenomenon finally run its course?  Let’s find out!!

Immediately following the events of the first movie, the Duplo aliens of the Systar System have waged an all-out war with the people of LEGO city for five whole years and have left it a Mad Max style barren wasteland with no more bright and shiny blocks.  ONLY DARKNESS AND NO PARENTS!!  Well except for Emmet (Chris Pratt) whose upbeat attitude cannot be damped even in the face of utter annihilation!  That turns out to be a problem though as the nice house he built has attracted the Duplos once again and now they’ve taken all his friends from the first movie which includes Lucy AKA Wyldstyle, Batman, Benny, Princess Unikitty, and MetalBeard (Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, and Nick Offerman) back to their home planet for their own nefarious purposes that we soon learn to be a shotgun wedding between Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi of the Systar System (Tiffany Haddish) and a very reluctant Batman.  Clearly something has to be done to save them, but the only one of the LEGO people willing to take the chance is Emmet who haphazardly travels through… space I guess, to find them.  Along the way he is saved from an asteroid field by the dashing rouge Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt) and his army of super smart velociraptors who agree to help Emmet on his journey to defeat the girly Systar invaders because being a TOUGH GUY means punching things that are pink and frilly!  Can Emmet save his friends from Systar invaders who want to brainwash all of his friends and put Batman through a forced marriage!?  Can Lucy escape from the Queen Watevra’s cunning grasp, and does she know something about this place that she isn’t telling the others?  Is it just me, or did things get REALLY complicated for a movie about plastic toys?

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“WHY DO WE KEEP RUNNING WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE WE NEVER GET ANYWHERE!?”     “WELL IT’S BEEN WORKING FOR US SO FAR!!”

I can’t really tell if I’m too old or not old enough to enjoy this movie, but in either case the film is very much a disappointment for me.  Then again, I’m sure if it really SHOULD be a disappointment since sequels rarely measure up the original film; especially when no one expected the first one to be good in the first place.  Hoodwinked Too, The Last Exorcism 2, even the sequel to Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs wasn’t all that great; though they themselves managed to pull off a great sequel with 22 Jump Street.  They aren’t directing this one which might have been a red flag from the outset, but really it just feels like a mistake to try and go back to the well like this; especially when you have The LEGO Batman Movie to compare it to (also not directed by Lord and Miller) that’s leaps and bounds better than what we got here!

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“I’M THE HARBINGER OF YOUR DOOM!!”     “Yeah, well I’m Batman, and Batman always wins.”     “I’M TELLING ON YOU!!”

The big problem with this movie is that everything it does feels like a pale comparison to what they did in the first film, and I don’t have to be the one to tell you that this is the problem with LOTS of sequels to successful films; try to do the first one over again, only BIGGER and with more self-awareness.  I mean it’s right there in the title; THE SECOND PART.  It’s almost like they went into this knowing that they couldn’t live up to the gut punch of the first film so they ended up leaning into that sense of inevitability.  To a certain extent I sympathize because there’s no way to pull off the hat trick twice where (SPOILER ALERT) we learn that this is all a metaphor for a child’s imagination and the complex feelings they have about their family, but that’s why I also think that the OTHER Sequel, The LEGO Batman Movie (less so Ninjago), was the right way to go if they wanted this franchise to go forward.  This isn’t just about knowing the twist ahead of time, otherwise the original film wouldn’t be all that rewatchable, it’s that this movie is BUILT AROUND knowing the twist where the first film hid the secret and made a focused narrative outside of that.  Looking back on the first film, the pieces do fit together quite well but the movie doesn’t rely on you knowing that ahead of time for it to be great, while this one on the other hand will not stop reminding you that it’s about two kids fighting and that their mom is gonna take their toys away if they don’t stop.  We’ll get more into that in just a second, but honestly, the movie is just dull compared to the first one.  The songs aren’t as good, the characters we liked are barely in this (why did they even bother getting Charlie Day back?), and worst of all it’s just not as funny because they have to spend half the dialogue reminding you that they KNOW this is a sequel and won’t stop winking at the camera.  Heck, even the product placement isn’t as good here as the whole LEGO aspect of the movie feels that much more overt and market driven; especially with a kid who has to be what, thirteen by now, still buying what has to be hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars’ worth of bricks.  It made sense in the first one for so many LEGOs to be there as it was the dad’s obsession and he could more easily afford all that, but now it’s entirely on the kid who seems to have started spending just as much time on them as his dad did, only it’s no longer an obsession as it is A FUN AND FULFILLING WAY FOR KIDS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES THAT YOU CAN GET FOR TEN EASY PAYMENTS AND A SECOND MORTGAGE!  I’m trying to think of anything in this movie that’s as memorable as the first film, and other than the raptors which have a few awesome jokes, it all feels like an uninspired retread.

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“WHOSE the best part of this movie!?  Yes you are!  YES YOU ARE!!”

So what about the story itself?  Even if the movie isn’t as good as the original, there’s at least a decent story to be told, right?  Well… I guess?  Again, the fact that everything is laid out so early in the movie kind of robs the narrative of a lot of impact, but even aside from that I’m not sure how to feel about the way they represent the conflict through the LEGO world.  I don’t want to get TOO far into the weeds here as far as what is real and what isn’t (how much should I care about the autonomy of imaginary pieces of plastic?) but the whole thing felt… odd to me.  I feel I MIGHT be overthinking this which I’ve been trying to do less of recently, but the movie’s message feels rather muddled and POSSIBLY tone oblivious in certain situations.  Like, the degree to which this boy feels victimized by his sister (which is conveyed in the first act of the movie) is kind of troubling!  He’s SO annoyed by his sister pestering him to play with her that he imagines that as an invasion on the level of War of the World’s; destroying EVERYTHING the LEGO people have built in an all-consuming drive to take away everything he holds dear until all that’s left is a Mad Max knock off.  Like… okay, maybe someone should talk to this kid before he starts claiming that SJWs are taking away his video games!?  Okay fine, the movie is about him coming to terms with his own sense of fragile masculinity and realizing that sharing with others is not an attack on him.  We EVENTUALLY get to that part in the story, but that’s after a lot of really messed up scenarios that weren’t fun to sit through and I’m a bit conflicted as to how all of that is explained away.  I get that by the end of the movie we’re supposed to interpret most of what we saw as a skewed interpretation of events based on the kid’s angry resistance to his sister’s presence, but how are we supposed to spin the fact that there was still KIDNAPPING and FORCED BRAINWASHING being shown on screen as part of that narrative?  I mean those are some pretty bad things right there (Lucy is constantly being pushed around, force into things she doesn’t want to do, and constantly under threat of attack), but because they’re part of the IMAGINARY portion of the movie, that stuff doesn’t matter?  The filmmakers are still using that imagery on screen, but then they hand wave it all at the end to invalidate those experiences which to me feels kind of like a form of gas lighting.  No, of COURSE we weren’t shoving you in a room and forcing you to hear a song at ear splitting volumes until you submitted to our will!  That was all IMAGINARY, which… okay I guess is TRUE here, but at that point what do the experiences of the LEGO characters even matter anymore!?  See, this wasn’t a problem in the first film because again, they made a movie framed as the LEGO pieces’ adventure that THEN expanded to be about something more which gives the LEGO story itself a sense of weight.  There’s no weight here to anything in the first two acts because they keep reminding you how fake it all is and I just couldn’t get invested in it when framed that way.

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“I’m a stand in for like five different metaphors, and I look DARN good doing it!”

I will give the movie credit for this.  Despite the film foreshadowing much of its story from a mile away, the third act does work rather well; certainly better than anything that was leading up to it.  This is mostly because the third act of this film functions very much the same way as the third act of the first film, and while we don’t have a great adventure leading up to it, it does manage to find the emotional core of the story once they zero in it.  If you’ve ever had a sibling, then you know what it’s like to constantly fight with them over silly things and the portrayal of that here, while a bit RUSHED, makes sense and feels pretty well thought out.  GETTING to this point is a total mixed bag, but at least they managed to land strongly.  I’ll also give credit to the (admittedly pretty obvious) twist at the end regarding Rex Dangervest which is convoluted but goes along with the better aspects of the movie’s theming about fragile masculinity and what our culture keeps telling young men to act like.  On top of that, the animation is still great (Queen Watevra is a very impressive evolution of the art style), the cast is still good when the get the chance, and some of the ways they visualize new ideas is quite interesting.  The basic elements are there to make this a solid movie, but the storytelling just lets it all down.

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“Hey Batman, you need a new sidekick in your next movie?”     “Send your resume to Alfred.  We’ll let you know in four to eight weeks.”

You know what this movie is?  This feels like Phil Lord and Chris Miller saw the documentary Marwencol and thought that they could do something like that (the narrative honestly isn’t that much more convoluted), but honestly I liked Welcome to Marwen WAY better than this film which is probably a good litmus test as to how seriously you should take my opinion here.  There are some great moments throughout the movie and the third act at least wraps things up better than I expected it to, but there’s just not enough here to distinguish it from the first LEGO movie to make it feel the least bit necessary.  I’d certainly skip this one, especially when you can just rewatch the original movie and LEGO Batman instead, but I’m also not too confident that my interpretation of the film will be all that universal.  A lot of other people seem to like it, so maybe I’m just a big ol’ sourpuss who can’t enjoy kid’s movies anymore!  Then again, everyone including myself thinks that Into the Spider-Verse is an utter masterpiece, and even the critics out there that liked this one would STILL probably say that’s better than this film!  Why no, I’m NOT really going anywhere with this!  Just go see Into the Spider-Verse again!

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If you liked this review and plan on buying the movie, then use the Amazon link below!  I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite!  In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed!  Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage!  You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (BD) [Blu-ray]

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