Everything is….considerably less awesome.
When I decided to see The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), I assumed that the theatre would undoubtedly be filled with children. Naturally, it was. Now, not only was I surrounded by a theatre full of children, but would you believe that I ended up sitting right behind an ENTIRE birthday party? An entire row of kids fidgeting, kicking their seats back, and loudly whispering to each other. Needless to say, it was a less than desirable movie-going experience. In fact, it only strengthened my argument that this sequel to The Lego Movie (2014) isn’t worth heading to the theatres for.
Taking place immediately where The Lego Movie left off, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part sees Emmet and his friends adjusting to the dystopian wasteland that is their home following the arrival of the Duplo invaders. When the invaders general, General Mayhem, abducts his friends, Emmet embarks on an outer space adventure to rescue them and save the universe from the apocalyptic event, “Our-Mom-Ageddon.”
I’ve mentioned before how when I go to review, I do my best to leave my expectations at the door. I find it better to go into a movie with as clear a mind as possible. However, this time around, I just couldn’t help myself. I went into this movie with A LOT of expectations. The first one, which you can read my review for here, was a winning combination of heart and humour that had a little something for everyone. I assumed that like 22 Jump Street (2014), screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller would take one of their critically-acclaimed movies and deliver a sequel that elevated the franchise to new heights. Sadly, I was sorely mistaken. It’s not that The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a terrible movie, it’s just that when you’re following in the footsteps of a beloved predecessor, you need to raise the bar. The movie succeeds in emulating the original’s boundless imagination and tongue-in-cheek pop culture references, but fails to replicate the emotional weight that the original had. Speaking of beloved, many of the first movie’s breakout stars like Princess Unikitty, Benny, and MetalBeard are hardly in the movie! What’s the deal with that? Seeing them use their different skills and personalities to work together was such an enjoyable part of The Lego Movie. Missed opportunities movie, missed opportunities.
The biggest problem by far though is that this movie doesn’t understand its audience. Sure, it’s a cartoon that’s strongly marketed towards kids, but part of what made the first movie so appealing is that its humour was so sharp and smart that audiences of all ages could enjoy it. This time around the humour feels extremely childish with the mile-a-minute jokes often reaching for the low-hanging fruit. It really felt like a kid’s movie. At times, I even felt like I was watching an episode of a cartoon show you might find on Teletoon or Nickelodeon. More than anything though, I was extremely disappointed at the lack of importance the film placed on character development and emotional gravitas. Neither the story or dialogue are as thought-through or witty as the first movie, and it really makes a movie that should be “lovable,” only “fairly likable.” To be fair, this movie still contains a somewhat heartfelt message. However, while the first movie conveyed its message of “everyone is special” in an authentic and moving way, the sequel messily squeezes its own rather generic message in without laying the proper groundwork.
Despite how disappointing I found a majority of the movie to be, there are still a handful of things that make The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part worthwhile. The animation and work of the voice cast are as astounding as ever, and there are some genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments. Maya Rudolph has about five minutes of total screentime and absolutely steals the entire show. Honestly, I laughed more in her extended cameo than I did for the first two acts of the movie. Rudolph’s amazing comedic presence aside, I didn’t laugh my head off during this movie, which again, was largely disappointing for me.
Even something that should be guaranteed comedic gold, like Will Arnett’s flawless portrayal of Batman, feels…underwritten. Arnett gets a large portion of the movie’s jokes but none of them seem to land or have the hilarious impact they they did in the first movie or even the spin-off, The Lego Batman Movie (2017). It’s almost like the movie expects us to laugh and lose our minds simply because it’s Batman telling the jokes, the quality of the joke left inconsequential. What we loved about Arnett’s Batman the first two times around were his memorable one-liners and self-deprecating references, both of which are either absent or lacking any flavour in this sequel. At least the thinly-veiled Chris Pratt jokes courtesy of new character Rex Dangervest (a loose collection of Pratt’s most famous roles), provide some of the inside jokes and subtle references that audiences have come to expect from the Lego franchise. Even if they are delivered in an odd John-Wayne-esuque accent, they’re appreciated.
Tiffany Haddish joins the sequel as the shape-shifting antagonist, Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, and to her credit, her performance is every bit as charismatic and full of energy as you’d expect. Haddish is great in the role and I look forward to her lending her voice to more animated features, but I was curious as to why the movie gave her character not one, but two musical numbers. To my knowledge Haddish is not a singer and it’s not like the first movie was a musical that required its cast to sing. It’s a small detail but one that stuck with me even on the drive home from the theatre. Speaking of music, the movie’s “Everything Is Awesome” clone, “Catchy Song,” is just as annoyingly-infectious as its predecessor. I challenge you to try and resist belting out its chorus over and over again on your own drive home.
Recommending The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is more difficult than it sounds. If you need to entertain some children, or have a movie gift card burning a hole in your pocket, than absolutely head to theatres to see it. If you’re a fan of the first movie, and I say this as one of its most devoted, you’re cool to wait until it drops on Netflix or Apple TV. Once again, it’s not a bad movie, but I think you’ll find it more enjoyable if you watched it for free rather than if you had paid the cost of admission.
Have you seen The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!