“The LEGO Movie 2” Review: Everything is About Half as Awesome

Lego Movie 2 The Second Part Lego Movie 2 The Second Part | photo courtesy Warner Bros. Picture

While an entertaining family adventure in its own right, the minifig-filled sequel can’t quite recapture the magic of the first.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part‘s biggest problem is that The LEGO Movie exists. That 2014 film was such a massively unexpected delight that even a follow-up that’s only half as good still falls in the upper echelon of kids’ fare. But despite being a wholly entertaining animated adventure, The LEGO Movie 2 fails to fully reconstruct the magic of the original. A big part of that is because The LEGO Movie had the element of surprise on its side—both in terms of its joyfully demented style, but also in terms of the movie’s big emotional reveal that its animated storyline was being acted out by a real-world kid named Finn (Jadon Sand), struggling with his perfectionist dad (Will Ferrell). The LEGO Movie 2 maintains that parallel storytelling device and uses it fairly well, but this time around the novelty has worn off.  

The LEGO Movie 2 picks up exactly where the first movie left off, with the goofy cliffhanger teaser in which some adorably baby-voiced toys from the “planet Duplon” beam down to Bricksburg and announce their intention to destroy it. In the real world, that signals the arrival of Finn’s little sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) who has also been given the keys to her dad’s LEGO kingdom. Cut to five years later and Bricksburg has become “Apocalypseburg,” a Mad Max: Fury Road inspired post-apocalyptic wasteland where our heroes have been forced to abandon anything colorful or fun, lest it draw the attention of the Duplonians. Preternaturally good-natured Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the only minifig who hasn’t rebooted his personality to fit this new “dark and gritty” version of the LEGOverse. While his special best friend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) flourishes in a grimdark world where dramatic brooding is a popular pastime, she worries that Emmet might just be too kindhearted to survive in their new reality. So when Lucy and their friends are kidnapped by General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and taken to the “Systar System,” Emmet decides he needs to “grow up” into a tough-as-nails hero in order to rescue them.

If the first film was a father/son story by way of a Matrix parody, the sequel is a brother/sister story by way of a critique of the Christopher Nolan-ification of pop culture. As an avatar of masculine broodiness, The LEGO Movie 2 introduces Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), a grizzled “galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy and raptor trainer” who’s just the guy Emmet needs for a crash course in machismo. The two team up to rescue Emmet’s friends, with Rex teaching his new protégé the skills of a “Master Breaker”—the destructive flipside of the first film’s celebration of creation. Meanwhile, Lucy investigates the sparkling but suspicious Systar System, which is ruled over by the shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). As Unikitty (Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and a delightfully well-used Batman (Will Arnett) are won over by Watevra Wa-Nabi’s glittery charms, Lucy remains convinced that something evil is afoot, even as unexpected revelations from her own past begin to emerge.

The LEGO Movie 2 is nothing if not ambitious. Thematically, it touches on big ideas like toxic masculinity, the value of cynicism vs. optimism, the way feminine pursuits are often devalued by society, miscommunication between siblings, and—as in the first film—the idea that there’s no “wrong” way to play with LEGOs. (As creatively innovative as these films are, at the end of the day they still want to sell toys, including, this time around, the doll-like LEGO Friends line aimed at girls.) At its best, the film hits upon some intriguingly complex ideas about gender without just falling back on lazy gender essentialism. For instance, in the real world, it’s the teenage boy who prefers serious anti-heroism to his sister’s feminine storylines (makeovers, weddings, dance parties, etc.). In the LEGOverse, however, it’s Lucy who associates cynicism with maturity, while Emmet is the peppy optimist. Yet for all of its intriguing thematic ideas, The LEGO Movie 2 ultimately winds up feeling a little too overcrowded for any of them to fully land. It doesn’t help that on top of everything else it’s trying to do, it’s also a musical, with a couple of songs gleefully performed by Haddish, a meta pop parody called “Catchy Song,” and a few effective reprises of “Everything Is Awesome.”

The LEGO Movie 2 is also just a tad too smugly self-congratulatory about how much better it treats its female characters than the first film did. And that back patting sits rather jarringly with the fact that the film’s big world-ending event is called “Ar-mom-ageddon” (a.k.a. the moment Finn and Bianca’s mom will force them to put away their toys if they can’t stop fighting). The film tries to wiggle out of any negative connotations by having the mom (a perfectly cast cameo role) explain she’s not actually the villain of the story, but the joke still feels like “moms are no fun!” Indeed, the real-world sibling rivalry storyline never rises above the hackiest of sitcom generalities with none of the impressive emotional heft of the first film. Bianca, who should theoretically be the lynchpin of the movie, never really feels like a character at all. And whereas the first film was wonderfully clear in how the real-world storyline enriched the animated one, this time around the metaphors feel a little messier. The film adopts a “just don’t think about it!” approach to some of its later twists and turns, which doesn’t stop them from threatening to break the world anyway.


At its best, the film hits upon some intriguingly complex ideas about gender without just falling back on lazy gender essentialism.

Again, it’s worth emphasizing that The LEGO Movie 2 is still a really entertaining movie—a rollicking rollercoaster that doubles the joke-a-minute pace of the first film with plenty of meta gags aimed squarely at adults. Though they returned to write the screenplay, Phil Lord and Chris Miller pass off directing duties to Mike Mitchell (Trolls, The SpongeBob Movie), who gives the film a frantic sense of non-stop momentum. Visually, The LEGO Movie 2 is just as inventive and delightfully bonkers as its predecessor, although—at least in its 3D format—a little less texturally rich. All in all, The LEGO Movie 2 feels like more movie than the first one, which somehow winds up making it feel like less.

In the end, The LEGO Movie 2 is perhaps most interesting as a meta-commentary on Chris Pratt’s career. The relationship between Emmet and Rex doubles as an exploration of Pratt’s various attempts to move away from the earnest, lighthearted roles of his earlier career in order to play things like condescending raptor trainers. The LEGO Movie 2 argues that Pratt maturing in his career doesn’t have to mean giving up the earnestness he embodies so well. Given how great he is at bringing Emmet to life, it’s hard to disagree.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
Liked it? Take a second to support The Spool on Patreon!