THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART (2.5 STARS)
PLOT An unassuming Lego figure must save his carefully-built world from extinction.
CAST Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Tiffany Haddish
RATED PG (some mature humor)
BOTTOM LINE More in-jokes and wisecracks than new ideas here, but the animation still dazzles and the voice-cast still charms.
There's no problem a clever joke can’t fix in “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.” The maxim holds true in the animated Lego world, the live-action real world and the filmmakers’ world as well. Whenever plotlines and logic fail in this sequel, a bit of humor always comes to the rescue.
Fans will remember that 2014’s “The Lego Movie” was the wildly inventive story of a humble construction worker, Emmet (the voice of Chris Pratt), who saves Lego civilization from the tyrannical Lord Business (Will Ferrell). But there was a meta-story: A human boy, Finn (Jadon Sand), was play-acting the entire thing as a way to communicate his feelings. Directed and written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, “The Lego Movie” had complicated themes to match its elaborate, stop-motion-style animation (by the studio Animal Logic). As might be expected, the sequel overcomplicates things in an attempt to one-up the original. The result is frenetic and scattered, but mostly entertaining.
Where “The Lego Movie” doubled as a satire of consumerism, the sequel doubles as a satire of itself. After we last saw Emmet and his girlfriend, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), invaders from the planet Duplo (all with cutesy toddler voices) clumsily destroyed their city. “From the wreckage,” says Lucy in mock-serious narration, “we built a grittier, cooler, more mature civilization.” It’s a foreshadowing of themes to come: Big kids versus babies, tough versus tender.
It takes a lot of effort from new director Mike Mitchell and returning writers Lord and Miller, though, to bring those themes to the fore. After much initial flailing and some passable musical numbers, the story settles upon a shape-shifting character, Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (sound it out; she’s played by Tiffany Haddish), who wants to marry Batman (Will Arnett). Whatever unfathomable evil that may bring must be stopped by Emmet and his braver, more rugged doppelgänger, Rex. Both characters are voiced by Pratt. In fact, the movie seems slightly obsessed by Pratt. Rex, for instance, is said to be a raptor-trainer with “chiseled features previously hidden under baby fat” — nods to the actor’s “Jurassic World” role and formerly round physique.
In the end, “The Lego Movie 2” doesn’t hang together very well, but it’s funny, fast, and enjoyable. Stay for the delightful closing credits, a colorful Lego music video with top-notch pop tunes from The Lonely Island, Superorganism and Matt and Kim.