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The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

(2019) *** Pg
106 min. Warner Bros. Director: Mike Mitchell. Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Tiffany Haddish, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell.

/content/films/5146/1.jpgFirst things first: if you have a kid who loved The LEGO Movie, it’s certain they’ll like The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. And not just because kids like most any movie you put in front of them: care has gone into making this sequel a worthy direct follow-up to the 2014 film that kicked off LEGO as a film franchise. If this sequel leans in quality a touch more toward its spinoffs (2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie) than the shining city on a hill that was the original film, that’s understandable. After all, there’s no putting the genie of novelty back in the bottle. You can only have one first time. Even so, The LEGO Movie creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return as producers and screenwriters (with a story assist from Matthew Fogel), and their ingenuity and witty DNA goes a long way to establishing a satisfying, stylish continuity for this sequel.

Also returning under newly installed director Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, Sky High) are a crack comic voice cast up for these films’ manic barrage of gags, running gags, pop culture references, and meta jokery. Chris Pratt continues to humorously undercut traditional heroism as loveably dopey Master Builder Emmet Brickowski, while Elizabeth Banks’ Master Builder Lucy (a.k.a. “dark Goth rebel” Wyldstyle) tries to keep him focused on reality. Reality makes for a slippery concept in this Matrix-inspired world (with unspoken apologies to Toy Story), where the LEGOs are all toys in the home of two kids (Jadon Sand and Brooklynn Prince) being raised by Will Ferrell and (it turns out) Maya Rudolph’s mom and dad.

As far as Emmett and Lucy know, Bricksburg has taken a bad turn to Apocalypseburg ever since “adorably destructive” DUPLO blocks arrived from outer space and began warring with the LEGO people. Yes, it’s all still an unapologetic feature-long advertisement for toys but let’s be honest: what isn’t these days? The humorously self-serious LEGO Batman (Will Arnett) is still in the picture, as are Master Builders Benny (Charlie Day), Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman). New on the scene: Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), of the outer-space Systar System.

Read Systar as “sister” and you see the larger workings of the plot, which proposes a sibling rivalry crisis between a big brother and little sis that threatens to force Mom’s hand and send all of the toys, LEGO and DUPLO alike into permanent storage, also known as toy oblivion. The higher-level relatable human story gives extra heart to what’s otherwise mostly a wackiness machine, but Lord and Miller also sneak in commentary on not giving up in bleak times that’s extra-relatable to the adults in the room. A major plot point involving a mysterious Snake Plissken-esque doppelgänger to Emmett not only gives Pratt’s performance a fun new dimension, but it forces a conversation about the ability to change and the wisdom to know when to stay true to one’s character.

So while adults will probably find somewhat diminishing returns in The Second Part, its cheeky variations on all the constructions that worked so well the first time also work pretty darn well, and to a good end. That includes another delightful score by Mark Mothersbaugh and songs by Jon Lajoie (an end-credits collaboration between Beck and The Lonely Island constitutes its own hilarious—and visually impressive—short film). Everything’s not quite as “awesome” as it used to be, but the lyrics to “Catchy Song” are true on their face and as a comment on the movie that contains them: “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head.”

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