I have never had so much unfiltered, unadulterated FUN in a movie theatre quite like the near out-of-body experience I had watching the 2014 film THE LEGO MOVIE. I hold it in such high regard that the mere mention of the movie title still elicits a wave of joy in my psyche. How is it, that a movie that originally comes across as a cash grab for a product instead turns out to be one of the zaniest, most original and captivating pieces of animated joy in its entire 100 minute running time? Everything about it, from its inspired blocky animation to the fun characters who all make complete sense in the final scene which inspires repeat viewings, is exactly what animated cinema should be in this day and age.
Since then, it seems like Warner Animation has tried to capture lightning in a bottle once again with THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, which has great jokes and a fun parable on the Batman versus Joker storyline yet just didn’t have that “WOW” factor of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s original gem. And then in the lousy LEGO NINJAGO movie, I was never laughing nor intrigued by a tired Kung Fu storyline, even with Jackie Chan as one of the main voices.
I approached this sequel with even more trepidation, as I knew going in this really is technically the fourth entry but a continuing story of the first movie. If that makes sense. THE SECOND PART picks up where the first left off, where the children version of LEGO, the Duplo toys, arrive on the scene and create havoc, creating a very MAD MAX FURY ROAD type of world. The lovable and positive Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) is also back along with Lucy/Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Unikitty (Allison Brie) and Batman (Will Arnett), as he also has to deal with a new character who looks a BIT similar to him and has an odd backstory.
The twist in the original is that for the entire movie we really are witnessing the vision of a young boy who is upset with his father. As a result, once you find this out, it locks every minute that you watched all together and demands repeat viewings. Here, the connection is between the brother and sister yet none of it feels as developed. In the 2014 movie, the connection was so rewarding that multiple viewings were required just to pick up on all of the imagination as it moved from one type of “world” to the next. Here we don’t have that, but rather frequent mentions of the common room the brother and sister are playing in, and a washing machine that becomes a pivotal character. There are also some moments in here that don’t even appear to come from either of the kids imaginations and comes off more of the cerebral thoughts of the film team.
To make matters worse, the same issues I would have with some Marvel movies like the DEADPOOL series is that the filmmakers choose to explain all of the jokes and references, and point their fingers at punchlines and TELL you to laugh, rather than letting the comedy come out naturally. Typically in more modern movies when this happens the characters spout dialogue that feels too written and unnatural (even the recent animated SPIDER-MAN movie was guilty of this). There are some songs, as well, that are so “on the nose” with its humour that it made me want to punch the screen at times.
So there is part of me that wants to call THE SECOND PART a colossal disappointment. I didn’t feel the exuberant joy of the 2014 movie nor LEGO BATMAN and I felt there were even sequences that would tire younger viewers. And yet…overall, looking at this movie on its own, this movie still delivers on a supreme technical level with a lot of enjoyment throughout. I laughed a lot and I deeply admired the endlessly fascinating design of it all. And I still think families and animation fans purchasing a ticket to see this sequel will still have a good time, warts and all. It certainly comes off as more enjoyable and memorable than a lot of the Marvel and DC movies of late, and there are MANY solid jokes here that poke fun at the franchises, even the recent AQUAMAN which was still playing strong in the same theater I viewed the movie in. Now that’s good timing.
THE SECOND PART is such a strange movie to recommend as I sat watching it wishing I would have something to bring me back to the joy of the original. And yet CAN we return to that Phil Lord and Chris Miller gem? It’s unlikely, but I still wish it would have tried harder. I think kids and adults will still pick up something worth loving here, and even understanding that it CAN’T be as memorable as the 2014 landmark, and I suppose that’s okay. It’s far from great, but THE SECOND PART is still really fun.
Rating: *** out of ****
THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART is now playing across Canada.