The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Directed by Mike Mitchell
T. S. Eliot was wrong, April isn't the cruelest month. It's February. The air hurts our skin and our lungs, warmth seems like myth, the sun mocks us, its glare blinds us. And in the midst of this wretched month, when just going outside can feel like a forced march, the studios use theatres as a dumping ground. The unwanted, the unloved, the unwatched, the low expectations, they show up on the marquee. And in the midst of this, when the hope of spring feels like a fool's hope, something special shows up in the multiplex. Black Panther in 2018. Lego Batman in 2017. Deadpool in 2016. And all the way back, you get the idea. Like a promise of being able to walk outside without cursing your ancestors for moving to this land that God has forgotten, a good film in February gives us a reason to bundle up and spend two hours with strangers as the Alberta Clippers and Saskatchewan Screamers howl outside.
This February, the promise of a life without two story snowbanks is The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.
Is it as good as The Lego Movie? No, sorry. That would be a near impossibility without Phil Lord and Christopher Miller returning to direct. It's not that the director of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked isn't up to the task. He does a competent job, much better than his resume might hint at. It's just that he doesn't bring the anarchic energy that Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller bring to their projects.
But, really, that is my only complaint about The Lego Movie 2. And I had to sit and ponder for a while to come up with that one. So, yeah, The Lego Movie 2 is missing some of the energy of the first movie.
And now let us talk about what works. Short answer - darned near everything else.
Set five years after the first Lego Movie, the new movie finds our characters living in Apocalypseburg, Bricksburg having been abandoned after constant invasion by Duplo bricks. General Sweet Mayhem, the leader of the Duplo army, kidnaps some of our characters and Emmet takes off to rescue his friends. On his way to the Systar System he encounters Rex Dangervest and, well, lots of stuff happens. And it is charming and funny and moving and everything anyone would want from a sequel to The Lego Movie.
The first, and biggest, plus in The Lego Movie 2 checklist is that it isn't a rehash of the first movie, it isn't The Lego Movie Redux. At it's centre, the first movie was the story of a young boy's imagination and the distant relationship he has with his father. At the new movie's centre is the relationship between the boy and his sister, and the effect that creeping adolescence has on a child's imagination. The Lego Movie 2 builds on the worlds created in the first movie, it builds on the themes of childhood and imagination and the dynamics of family relationships and it surprises with its twists and turns.
And then there's the screenplay. Written by the writers and directors of the first movie, Misters Lord and Miller, it continues their tradition of tearing asunder any and all expectations. These are the guys that brought us Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the guys who directed 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street. The guys whose Han Solo movie might have been one for the ages. They are the guys who want to make blockbusters, but want to make them their way, kicking any and all cliches to the curb as they make their art.
The Lego Movie 2 is packed with surprises and jokes and then suddenly it's all "I'm not crying, you're crying" and then, just as suddenly, you're laughing as manly tears fall. This is a movie where a character voiced by Chris Pratt describes himself as a "galaxy defending archaeologist, cowboy, and raptor trainer". I swear I heard a first baseman joke in there somewhere, too. And just as the pop culture references threaten to overwhelm everything that has been built up, there's a turn and, again, I'm not crying. You're crying.
The design of The Lego Movie 2 has to be seen to be believed. Apocalypseburg is a mishmash of a couple of handfuls of post-apocalyptic movies, all under the shadow of a very familiar Statue of Liberty. The Systar System is, well, it has to be seen. Anything I try to do here will be disappointing and embarrassing to all of us. Trust me here, The Lego Movie 2 needs to be seen, especially on a large screen with a full audience.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part may not meet the bar set by its predecessor, but its not for lack of effort. This is a movie with a song called Catchy Song, with a chorus of "this song's gonna get stuck in your head". This is a movie with a "tween dream remix" of Everything is Awesome performed by Garfunkel and Oates. This is a movie with a credits song by Beck with Lonely Island and Robyn, which may melt the hearts of cynical, aging proto-hipsters everywhere. Maybe.
Anyway. February might be the cruelest month, but it got a little more bearable with The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. It really is that much fun.