Remember when everything was awesome? The first Lego Movie from 2014 was a colourful — well, mostly yellow — and giddy explosion of enthusiasm, humour and spectacular animation. Now The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part has arrived, and things are a lot more complicated.
One thing thehad was novelty. Five years and later, the sequel doesn’t pop with quite the same freshness. It doesn’t help that the opening act is set in a parody of , which isn’t the freshest gag in the world. But The Second Part does have the trademark Lego movie combination: It’s exuberant, dynamic, eye-popping and, above all, gloriously, unrestrainedly bonkers.
The characters and sets still come complete with scarred and pitted texture on their surfaces, just like real plastic, for an authentic stop-motion look. But whether it’s a space battle between various kinds of Lego or a vampire DJ with the voice of Noel Fielding or a startling detour into crayon, the humour is completely unfettered by such boring adult concerns as logic or physics. The result is a trippy treat for kids and adults.
In the first film, everything was awesome for a young boy playing in his basement with Lego bricks. But now everything’s been ruined by the arrival of his sister and her Duplo blocks. Anyone with kids will recognise the younger one’s unstoppable urge to be up in the older sibling’s business, and the ructions that can cause. The older brother asserts himself against his sister’s childish ways by adopting a tough, cynical tone, complete with dark, gritty brooding — so much brooding. Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, loves this darker tone, but it’s clear all is not right in Lego world.
The only ray of sunshine in this blasted heckscape is Emmet, the perennially cheerful hero of the first movie with the bouncy voice of Chris Pratt. His fellow adventurer, Lucy Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) has taken to the darker tone like a goth to mascara, but Emmet won’t give up his sunny disposition. Until sinister aliens kidnap his friends, that is, and he blasts off into space determined to toughen up and get grim ‘n’ gritty too.
Right from the off, the action is as colourful and epic as the first movie. It’s dizzyingly kinetic, zapping along at breakneck speed as hilarious gags fly thick and fast. None of the songs quite measure up to the first movie’s earworm anthem “Everything is Awesome” — even the self-consciously needy “This Song’s Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head” — but they’re upbeat and fun. And if in all the chaos you miss a joke, or a song doesn’t connect, there’ll be another one along in about a millisecond.
In his quest to break through the Stairgate to the Systar system, Emmet is aided in his quest by Rex Dangervest, an action hero so masculine his crew are velociraptors and his spaceship is shaped like a literal fist. Unlike Emmet, Rex doesn’t build — he breaks. And Emmet begins to think he’ll have to break stuff to save the day.
He’s wrong, of course, which might be a level of dramatic irony too far for younger viewers. But this is one semiotically complex movie. In the past, you might have a kid getting sucked into Lego world and trying to get back. But this is 2019, where movies operate on a. The Lego Movie 2 works as a meta-narrative switching between the “real” world and the Lego world, which also includes characters from other pop culture narratives, who are both unaware of the real world and yet somehow also aware of their position in the zeitgeist. And it’s a musical. With time travel. On top of that, the film is based on a real-life children’s toy, and then the characters and vehicles created for the film .
Seriously, the whole endeavour is a crazy moebius strip of postmodern recursive metatextuality. With songs.
Jeez, just because kids can work an iPad at six months old, apparently they’re expected to get Baudrillardian simulation theory. But whether the youngsters parse the postmodern juxtaposition or just dig the tunes, there’s also a pretty clear message about getting along with people and staying positive even when things look bleak. As the young boy from the first movie ages into a teenager, it’s suggested he should resist cynicism. In fact, you don’t have to squint very hard to see the film address boys on the verge of being radicalised into cynical or extremist beliefs. Listen to the Lego Movie, kids, and don’t swallow the red pill.
Life lessons, jokes, celebrity cameos — it’s all here. The Lego flick schtick is such catchy pop fun you’re guaranteed to have a great time. Sure, the Lego Movie 2 might not be as innovative as the first part, but it never lets you catch your breath long enough to realise that. Yup, this is how you build a sequel.
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