Lego Movie 2 relies on formulaic plotlines

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros., Wikipedia

In early 2014, if someone was to tell you that “The Lego Movie” would end up becoming one of the best films (let alone best animated films) of the entire year, chances are, you would probably think that they were paid by the studio to create publicity for an otherwise artificial concept.

And yet, here we are – five years ago, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller managed to craft a film that successfully defied its relatively low expectations and proved just because a movie is commercial, doesn't mean it can't be fantastic.

After working on other projects (the “Jump Street” franchise, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”), and the release of two spin-offs (2017’s “The Lego Batman Movie and “The Lego Ninjago Movie”), Lord and Miller have returned to write the long-awaited sequel “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” with Mike Mitchell (“Trolls”) serving as the director this time around.

Set mere seconds after the first film, an army of “DUPLO aliens” are constantly invading the Lego-built city of Bricksburg, and as a result, have turned it from an almost utopian city environment into an apocalyptic wasteland similar to the setting of George Miller's “Mad Max” films.

In spite of all this, Lego minifigure Emmet (Chris Pratt), still continues to live day-to-day with the same naive and innocent mentality that “Everything is Awesome,” much to the rest of his community and Lucy/Wyldstyle’s (Elizabeth Banks) disappointment.

That all changes, however, when one of those aliens, Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), captures Lucy, along with most of the supporting characters from the first film, including the 1980s spaceman Benny (Charlie Day), the “Hello Kitty-esque” Unikitty (Alison Brie), the pirate captain Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), and returning for his star-role, the minifigure version of Batman (Will Arnett), bringing them to the intergalactic “Sistar System.”

Now, it’s up to Emmet to travel into the reaches of space to save Lucy and his friends from the "Sistar" System’s ruler, Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), while also teaming up with the “galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy, and raptor trainer” Rex Dangervest (also Pratt), who essentially represents the “rough n’ tough” personality that Lucy and friends want Emmet to adopt for himself.

Getting the obvious out of the way first, there is simply no denying that the animation is visually stunning and imaginative on multiple levels. Similar to the first film and its spin-offs, everything looks like it was built out of real Lego bricks and pieces, almost giving the impression that the entire film was produced using stop-motion animation, as opposed to CGI.

Lord and Miller’s writing, as always, includes witty, fast-paced, and self-referential humor, and like in previous Lego films, an emotional message that, in one way or another, parallels our own reality. With that being said, when compared to the three other Lego films we’ve had up until now, this seems more like familiar territory, rather than a new and groundbreaking feat for animation.

In fact, in some respects, it almost seems like a “franchise overkill” at this point. Even that fast-paced humor, that was constantly throwing joke-after-joke at audiences previously, is still evident here, except this time, only about two-thirds of them actually land successfully.

The overarching message does try to build on what Lord and Miller accomplished with the first film, and while I think the direction that they were going for had fantastic potential, the end result certainly needs some improvement.

For one, the way they convey this message to the audience is rather disjointed and at times, confusing and overly complicated, especially considering that, near the end of the second act, time-travel elements are suddenly introduced into the plot out-of-nowhere.

One could argue that the film’s overall tone is zany and eccentric enough to consider that “usual territory,” but even by this franchise’s standards, it striked me as being drastically out of left field.

By the end of “The Second Part’s” roughly hour and a half runtime, it becomes clear what these Lego films have become a formula, a somewhat drabby one at that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the more Warner Bros. continues to “milk” this property until it’s eventually dry, the more audiences will realize what once worked for them before, has maybe overstayed its welcome.

Even with that said, “The Second Part” is certainly able to prove that “Everything is [still] Awesome,” just not nearly as much.

3 stars