There’s something about catching lightning in a bottle, the creative sense of “nailed it” that comes with this type of phenomenon in film, that is incredibly hard to recreate for anything like a sequel or spinoff. Astoundingly, The Lego Movie was one of these rare instances when something so glorious was executed that no one thought it could be done again. Even the spinoff, The Lego Batman Movie, was an awesome love letter to the character and both franchises that might honestly be the best film about the world’s relationship to these comic book stories. Hopes have been high for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and I have to admit I bought into the hype.
It’s okay. I think it’s a good movie. If it hadn’t been following The Lego Movie I might have thought it damned-near perfect but…we’ve had perfect already.
Lord & Miller continued on as writers, but have stepped away from the directors’ chairs this time around. Instead we have Mike Mitchell, someone who I have mixed feelings about. Yeah, he directed Sky High, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and of course this film but then there’s Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Shrek Forever After, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. He has as many misses as he does successes, and they basically rotate in his filmography. His career is insane, but this is a nice feather in his cap, carefully guided by Lord and Miller while giving the animation his own style and blending far more into the real world than the previous entry.
Plots are hard. There’s a major difference between story and plot, and I think has a whole lot more of the former and needs a bit more work on the latter. While the first film sent the message that self-belief is what makes someone special, this film has an underlying idea that you can meet different views and styles in the middle to co-exist. It’s a bit less heartwarming, but it works as a foundation on which to build an acceptable message for a family film. I think it could have been astounding, but there’s so much else going on that the main idea gets lost in the shuffle a little bit.
And let’s discuss the story. At its base, it’s about invading Duplo Blocks coming from the Systar System to invade Bricksburg, with their aggressive and rambunctious ways eventually breaking it down into the much more gritty and mature Apocalypseburg. The citizens have entered into a more brooding, violent way of life and are scared to have anything pretty or happy for fear that it will bring the invaders back. Over the course of 5 years, they break down into this homage to Planet of the Apes and Mad Max in fun visual ways. When our hero, Emmet, builds a home for himself and his girlfriend Wyldstyle, it brings the invaders and all of our main characters are kidnapped save him. He leaves and teams up with Rex, a charismatic and hard man that hangs out with velociraptors, to save them from the Systar System before the Systar Queen is wed to Lego Batman.
And that’s it! I had fun with it, enjoying a lot of the twists and turns that the characters take and the evolution each of them finds. It’s interesting to have a film where we can never feel safe trusting either our main characters or our opposing forces, all of them working their own angles and motives and all of them making mistakes. Everyone finds a way to remain likeable, and I’ll give that up to the solid script and voice acting more than I would the directing or musical direction. I think these things have a wide divide this time around, with Lord and Miller’s script working well with the cast and Mitchell’s visual style lacking alongside the songwriting from Mothersbaugh falling down a bit.
By far the most interesting aspect of the film is its approach to romantic relationships, which takes an unfortunate backseat to some of the other threads. Sometimes we aim to change things in those we love, or to eschew them for something else, and we find that when they change the way we want them to it leaves what we loved about them by the wayside. We all have a vision of what we want in a romantic partner, there’s nothing wrong with that. Change is a hard decision, and when you’re in a relationship you sometimes want an evolution from one stage to another in your partner’s life. In that, though, you may find that you miss what you had and didn’t really want what you got in its place and this is a crucial part of this film in a way I wish it devoted more time to. There’s something sweet about not just watching this happen between Emmet and Wyldstyle, his goofy acceptance of whatever she is and her desire for him to become a harder person to fit their new world, and I think her moment of realization is the emotional backbone of the third act. It was pretty beautiful to watch.
I can’t say I loved this, but I liked it a lot. This whole film is a mishmash of ideas and by the time the credits rolled I thought it bit off more than it could chew, but it manages to hold onto enough of its high-concept ideas to bring an experience that will satisfy most adults and virtually all children. It’s pretty but bleak, funny but real, and it tackles so many hard topics that I found enough to enjoy. I hope they pick their battles a bit better next time but for a second offering this was a great time.