I can remember when I saw The Lego Movie in theaters. I was a lot less selective when it came to the films I sat through, (a double-movie night with Fifty Shades of Grey and SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water? Sign me up!) and even though I’ve never liked the Lego video-games or other times the Lego brand has pursued things other than … Legos, I went ahead and watched the film. As fate would have it, The Lego Movie was a very good film, in-fact, according to the review I wrote nearly half a decade ago about it, The Lego Movie was a great film. Although I had expected a suitably satiable fare existing solely to sell plastic-blocks to children, I was pleasantly warmed by a film with creativity, a sense of humor, and heartful sentiment. Bolstering a conservative production budget of around sixty-million dollars, which is very small for an animated film, for a comparison, that same month, Dreamworks released Mr. Peabody & Sherman with well more than double the production budget, The Lego Movie launched Warner Bros. Animation’s first major franchise.
A few years later, The Lego Batman Movie arrived, and once more I had my reservations only to be surprised by a very funny, entertaining film. The Lego Batman Movie did serve as a bad omen in-terms of the series’ box-office prospects, however. The Lego Movie made nearly half a billion at the box-office, whereas The Lego Batman Movie struggled to reach three-hundred million. Thankfully, Warner Bros. stayed conservative with the budget, which kept Lego Batman as financially successful, but they had to have second-thoughts about that Lego Ninjago film they greenlit. Admittedly, I haven’t seen The Lego Ninjago Movie, which makes sense, considering no one else has seen it either. The Lego Ninjago Movie made less than half of what The Lego Batman film did, failing to break-even, amounting to the first box-office misfire in the series. Through overexposure and the law of diminishing returns, it should come as no surprise the sequel to the film that start the series in the first place would be met with apathy and diluted anticipation. Having to fight tooth-and-nail to reach one-hundred million at the domestic box-office, a paltry total compared to its predecessors near three-hundred million (when adjusted for inflation), the series has been an underdog in mainstream animation from the start. But does the film dwindle the goodwill of its predecessor or depend to heavily on it, or was the film unfortunately overlooked? Here are my thoughts …
The Lego Movie 2 is set directly after the original film, the cat’s out of the bag about Bricksburg’s inner-workings (that it’s a young boy’s imagination brought to life), but now his father has given his sister permission to come downstairs and play with the Legos as well. As you’d expect, the combustible siblings create havoc in the smaller world. Interpreted as an invasion of Duplo Aliens, Emmet initially opts to approach them peacefully, when that seemingly fails, five years later, the world as Emmett and friends knew it has become a desolate and dreary wasteland, aptly titled Apocalypseburg. Ultimately, the story is about Emmett and friends trying to stop the Duplo Aliens and to make “everything awesome” again, with a wrap-around conflict between Finn and Bianca, the brother and sister who are actively the puppeteers of the Lego characters.
The film comprises itself with the familiar cast of characters, along with some new names to freshen things up, this includes a new director. Mike Mitchell helms this film, replacing Phil Lord and Mike Miller (who remain as writers), which is something that made me a little leery about this film heading in. Mike Millers’ previous directorial efforts include Trolls, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip Wrecked, Shrek Forever After, and Deuce Bigalow, none of which would receive a positive rating on Mishmashers if I took the time to review them. It’s fitting I went into The Lego Movie 2 with low-expectations because it furthers what I said about the series being an underdog that rises to the occasion – and, for what it’s worth, I think The Lego Movie 2 rises to the occasion.
The film administers its kinetic visual humor and charming energy, operating on all cylinders, bolstered by likable characters and an infectious script filled with earworm musical numbers and the same sentimental we received from the first film. As far as comparisons to the first film are concerned, two significant comparisons stand out as worth acknowledging to me. For starters, I don’t think The Lego Movie 2 is as funny as The Lego Movie. It certainly it’s a bland affair and feels more like the laws of diminishing returns having their say, with the greatest hits no longer drawing the same response. Perhaps that’s a misnomer on them, regardless, that isn’t to say the film is drab, it simply suggests that the novelty has waned on some level. The other thing I’d say is that, on certain levels, The Lego Movie 2 is superior in-terms of execution. Looking back at the first film after my initial review, I’ve noticed the live-action scenes were flimsier and more rough-around-the-edges than what I remembered. I feel as though The Lego Movie 2 offers a clearer trajectory and even if it suffers from familiarity, I feel the live-action and its relation to the animated scenes was done better and compliments the previous film the way a good sequel should.
Looking at this film on its own, it has sentiment and heart, and rampant, fast-paced animation, and propels itself with various interlocking story-lines – Emmett trying to “toughen up” and mature, the cracks in Lucy’s own persona starting to show through, the live-action characters struggling to co-exist with one another, and, of course, what this all comes together to create. It’s a layered story-line, pieces working together cohesively like any film about Legos should. It is entertaining, it’s unique, and it has personality to spare, and what more could you want from such an animation? And, if you look at it as a sequel, The Lego Movie 2 perfectly expands on the first film’s concept, breaking down its walls and, although it still has the building blocks that make the last one special, it amounts to its own unique creation. I’d definitely recommend it.