Even if you were to factor in the uphill challenge of replicating that giddy blast of inventiveness that was the 2014 original — and, to a somewhat diminished extent, the 2017 Lego Batman spinoff — The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part can’t help but feel like a flimsy, unlicensed knockoff.
Replaying many of the visual gags that worked so amusingly before, the latest edition proves every bit as repetitive and uninspired as its glib title, bringing little that’s fresh or funny to the interlocking brick table despite boasting a script penned by originators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
The feature is directed by Mike Mitchell, with that same breathless overeagerness to please that he employed in Trolls, and the end effect will likely have little problem pounding its target audience into willing submission when it hits theaters. But it’s nevertheless dispiriting to witness just how generic this once-promising tentpole has become.
Set five years after everyman construction worker Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and company emerge victorious over the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), the story finds the decidedly more infantile DUPLO invaders making good on their previous threat to reduce their beloved Bricksburg to a pile of rubble, dubbed Apocalypseburg.
But while Emmet has remained his gosh-gee-whiz self, his BFF Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) has evolved into a “Mad Max-style” butt-kicking tough chick who is beginning to lose patience with his perpetually naive demeanor, especially after she, Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and fellow Bricksburgians are kidnapped.
They’re whisked off to a galaxy presided over by the shapeshifting Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (an instantly recognizable Tiffany Haddish), who would appear to be of dubious intentions, particularly in regard to her romantic feelings for Batman.
Considering a theme that’s seemingly all about growing up and embracing change, this Lego adventure is awfully content to simply trot out more of the same. Much of the satirical fun (save for, say, mini-figure Bruce Willis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg cameos) ends there, with the rest of the production coasting along on repurposed parts — and not just those belonging to its own franchise. Even the original film’s surprise poignant live-action reveal is continually reprised here to shameless heart-tugging effect, with a leaving-childhood-behind capper that can’t help but draw comparisons to Toy Story 3.
Although the cast (with Pratt doubling up here, also playing the role of Emmet’s tough-guy, stubble-faced mentor, Rex Dangervest) is energetically up to the challenge, they haven’t been provided with enough of the laugh-out-loud, character-driven opportunities they were given the first time around, especially where Arnett’s brooding, gravelly-voiced Caped Crusader is concerned. Likewise, that trademark, eye-popping digital brickwork seems to have lost much of its dazzling CG snap this time out.
As for those requisite goofy ditties, you know everything isn’t as awesome when the best they can come up with is a tune called “Catchy Song,” with the threatening refrain: “This song is gonna get stuck inside your head.”
Production companies: Warner Animation Group, Lego System A/S, Rideback/Lord Miller/Vertigo Entertainment
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Maya Rudolph
Director: Mike Mitchell
Screenwriters: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Producers: Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Roy Lee, Jinko Gotoh
Executive producers: Jill Wilfert, Keith Malone, Matthew Ashton, Chris McKay, Zareh Nalbandian, Ryan Halprin, Will Alegra, Chris Leahy
Production designer: Patrick Marc Hanenberger
Editor: Clare Knight
Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh
Rated PG, 93 minutes