By Jim Slotek
How not-awesome is The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part? Let’s start here.
If you’re making a sequel to The Lego Movie, job one must be to come up with a pop theme song as cruelly catchy as the first movie’s Everything Is Awesome. The result is the almost assaultive This Song Is Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head, a title that reads more like a note from a studio executive than an actual song.
Will This Song Is Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head eventually become an earworm? Ten minutes after I left the theatre, I couldn’t remember the tune. Neither could the person I was with.
I could be proven dead wrong, but there’s something about the corporate imperative of being ordered to write a hit song as big as the last hit song that seems self-defeating, or at least off-putting. (The movie also introduces a back-up song, Everything’s Not Awesome, which just seems lazy).
And everything about The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part feels like a corporate obligation fulfilled.
Amid a barrage of obligatory (but often undercooked comedy-wise) pop culture references, we do indeed discover everything is not awesome in Bricksburg, the sunshiny town of trademark-stamped building block people we met five years ago in The Lego Movie. It’s actually a promising beginning with the invasion of a fleet of baby-talking giant Duplos (Legos-for-Toddlers, for you non-toy aficionados).
It’s actually a promising beginning, turning Bricksburg into The Road Warrior. Unfortunately, from there, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part becomes a plot salad, a complicated framework for as many references as can be bloodlessly squeezed into the script. A few are undeniably funny (at the movie’s darkest moment, someone comments, “I think I finally get Radiohead”) and there’s a worthwhile cameo I won’t spoil.
The plot-salad begins when a Ultra Man-style space warrior named General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), demolishes Bricksburg’s remaining defenses and steals away to an alien planet with what are deemed to be its greatest leaders – including Lucy and Batman (Will Arnett) – leaving behind Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy’s nice but not bad-ass enough boyfriend.
Pratt actually does double duty in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, playing both Emmet and Rex Dangervest, a space rogue that seems a mashup of his characters in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Jurassic World series (Rex’s crew is made up entirely of velociraptors, who can talk to each other, but in subtitles only repeat what the humans say, like “Woo hoo.” A comedy opportunity lost for want of maybe one more writers meeting).
Emmet and Rex do meet up, ostensibly to save Lucy and prevent Batman from having to marry a seeming despot named Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). There are several plans, some changes of plans, some double crosses, more songs, and some direct lines to the non-Lego world, represented by the ultimate goal of staving off “Ourmomageddon” (without giving too much away about the human happenings, the moral of the story is to be nice to your sister).
Whether because they were all trying to follow what was happening, or maybe because the charm of the original Lego movie was lightning-in-a-bottle, I didn’t hear as many laughs in the audience this time around. The pieces are there from the original, but somehow the finished project seems less fun.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Directed by Mike Mitchell. Written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and three others. Starring (voices) Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett. Opens wide, Friday, February 8.