26 February 2019

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part review

It's kind of hard to believe that it's been five full years since The Lego Movie was released (I've officially reached that age where I say things like "this years gone fast"), but really, quite a lot has happened in that time. We've had two The Lego Movie spin-offs, of varying quality. Star Wars came back. The Marvel Cinematic Universe went from big deal to maybe the biggest deal. The DC Extended Universe started in earnest, and then died on its ass, and then started again. Pokémon Go came and went, which for my money is still the last time the world felt positive. The USA elected their very own President Business. Bloody Brexit.

My point is that despite just how quickly the time has passed, a lot has happened in our world since the release of The Lego Movie - so maybe it's only appropriate that a lot has happened to the world of The Lego Movie in that time too. Picking up right where the first film ended before jumping forward in time five years, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part sees the city of Bricksburg destroyed by Duplo alien invaders and rebuilt as a gritty, post-apocalyptic wasteland called Apocalypseburg, forcing the population (with Emmet as the only exception) to adopt a dark and tough persona in order to survive. But after an alien from the Systar system named General Mayhem kidnaps Batman, Unikitty, Benny, Metalbeard and Wyldstyle, it's up to Emmett to rescue them and prevent OurMomAgeddon, teaming up with a battle hardened space pilot named Rex Dangervest along the way.

It's a... really hectic start to the film to be honest, moving at a breakneck pace in order to get the actual story set up as soon as possible, and while that's understandable - everything before General Mayhem shows up is ultimately little more than wasted time in the grand scheme of things - it also results in an introduction that simply doesn't feel all that engaging, moving far too quickly and filled with too much meaningless action to really let you settle in to the movie. It's only when Emmett sets off to find his friends that The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part really finds its feet, at which point it becomes a hugely entertaining and really quite smart movie.

Which probably shouldn't come as all that much of a surprise given Lord and Miller's track record of smuggling real intelligence into concepts that would otherwise be entirely devoid of it, but it still feels a little miraculous when you see it happen right in front of you, expected or not. As with the first film, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is practically bursting at the seams with real purpose and genuine thematic weight, naturally revisiting the "it's all a metaphor" conceit of its predecessor and to arguably greater effect. What was used simply for a rather touching reveal in The Lego Movie is instead here used to explore some interesting and topical ideas, and while I'd hate to spoil exactly what ideas those are (half the fun of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is seeing exactly where it's heading, after all), you can rest assured that the result is a film with far more on its mind than you might expect.

And that's great - it's always nice to see a film aimed at kids and families that has some real thought behind it - but it wouldn't mean much if The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part wasn't also a damn good film at a much more fundamental, crowd-pleasing level. Lord and Miller's script is just as funny, smart and endearing as that of The Lego Movie, rarely going more than a few moments without throwing a new gag or two at the audience, making great use of returning characters from the first film while also finding room to introduce some new ones too. You've got Richard Ayoade's overtly prim and proper Ice Cream Cone, Ben Schwartz' goofy Banarnar (a sentient banana peel) and Stephanie Beatriz' General Mayhem - but the best of them is easily Tiffany Haddish's Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi, a shape-shifting set of blocks whose musical number introduction might well be the highlight of the entire film.

And of course the whole movie is a real feast for the eyes, just as good looking as its predecessor thanks to the highly stylised animation in which almost everything on screen at any given moment is made entirely of Lego, still a novelty worth enjoying even now there have been 4 full films in this franchise. The only real complaint I can make of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (beyond the aforementioned rushed introduction) is that Mike Mitchell's direction here isn't quite as strong as Lord and Miller's was on The Lego Movie, meaning that some gags don't land as well as they might've with the duo directing - but honestly, it seems like a such a minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things that it's not really worth dwelling on. All said and done, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is nothing less than a thoroughly joyous time at the cinema and a worthy sequel to The Lego Movie in its own right - and I can't wait to see how this franchise continues from here.

4 stars

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