Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART
Rated PG, 118 minutes
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Everyone can take a deep breath and relax. Everything is still awesome when it comes to director Mike Mitchell’s THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART. Well almost everything. There’s drama in the land of Bricksburg, and all its citizens are trying to cope with their new – very not-awesome – world order. But for us, this sequel written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who wrote and directed the original) finds its way into our hearts and heads – especially during a time charged with so much upheaval. While its sentiments perfectly reflect the brand’s abbreviation of the Danish leg godt (“play well”) and philosophy that encourages imagination and creativity, it also subversively delivers a subtle commentary on our current era’s bleak landscape marked by toxic masculinity and the loss of empathy.
It’s been five years since the siege of the DUPLO blocks left the once bustling Bricksburg a dry, desolate, dystopian wasteland, now renamed Apocalypseburg. Still, Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) strives to retain his cheery, upbeat way of living, like getting coffee every day and bouncing along to the earworm song, “Everything Is Awesome.” He’s in denial that his world has changed for the worse. Wyldstyle, a.k.a. Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) encourages him to get tough and hard for survival, but Emmet isn’t quite ready for an attitude adjustment.
That impetus doesn’t occur until the arrival of a mysterious spacecraft piloted by General Mayhem (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). Mayhem kidnaps Wyldstyle and other pals Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), MetalBeard (voiced by Nick Offerman), Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie) and Benny (voiced by Charlie Day). As the gang is shuttled to the glittery, glam lair of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (voiced by Tiffany Haddish), the shape-shifting, highly suspicious Empress of the Systar System, Emmet is forced back into hero mode, plotting a treacherous rescue mission to save his friends and the universe from doom.
Similar to the first film, the allegorical context comes courtesy of humans in the real world. This time it’s between Finn (Jadon Sand) and little sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). The ensuing dramatics cut between the kids’ sprawling imagination – which audaciously blends different mediums of animation and puppetry, further augmenting the story’s absurdist bent – and their live-action reality, where Mom (Maya Rudolph) is left to referee when the pair argue. This is where the genuine heart of the film resides. The unfolding parallel universe quest is a metaphor for Finn’s struggle with his impending adolescence. His trouble rectifying his sensitive side with the gritty image society demands from him is represented by Lucy’s wants for Emmet and the appearance of tough-guy pilot Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt by way of Kurt Russell and John Wayne). It also speaks to the brother and sister learning about compassion, communication and co-existence through play. Hopefully it serves as a guiding light for kids who are looking to work out their own brewing anxieties about an uncertain world.
That’s not to say the only takeaways are from the nuanced sentimentalities. What makes this next chapter in the brick universe truly remarkable and an absolute joy is the filmmakers’ ability to nail impeccably-crafted meta humor alongside the heart. The world-building (pun intended) is an immersive, cheerful, colorful delight. The visual language ascribed to Finn’s play, shown in blues and beiges, stands out from Bianca’s pink and purple palette, yet connects with aesthetic cohesion. The kids’ relationship is perhaps further emphasized with their shared penchant for random asides – like Dangervest’s raptors at a water cooler discussing Wi-Fi passwords (“I don’t know. Ask Sharon.”), or Banarnar, a clumsy banana who keeps slipping up. The animators have built sight gags a plenty – from the way glass shatters, to minifig Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s peppy dance. There’s even a great celebrity cameo (who I don’t dare reveal). The musical numbers, of which there are a few, are utterly fantastic – especially the six-minutes long end credits song “Super Cool,” which is just as riotously funny and flawless as the rest of the feature. Plus, pacing is snappy (again, pun intended).
When all is said and done, this wildly imaginative, extremely entertaining, feel-good feature is something audiences will love to pieces.
THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART opens on February 8.