Not all movies need sequels. Movies whose entire premises are based around huge twists really don’t need sequels. It’s a shame then that 2014’s “The Lego Movie” simply made too much money to condemn it to only child status. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” attempts to live up to the high bar set by the original, but stumbles mightily along the way.
Picking up right where the first film left off, returning writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”) waste no time at all dropping the audience right back into the world of normal-special guy Emmet and his various LEGO-based friends. The animation is still brisk and colorful. The characters are still funny and charming. The ending is arguably just as emotionally resonant as the first film’s. And yet, despite all of that, something never quite feels right with this second chapter of the brick-based film franchise. Maybe it’s the fact that a huge part of what the first film so successful was the shocking originality of it. When the original “Lego Movie” was first announced it was assumed it would be nothing more than a 90 minute commercial for toys, and while it was that to a degree, it was also a well-told story about creativity, fathers and sons and the pain of growing up. “The Lego Movie 2” goes all-in on the meta fourth-wall-breaking twist that defined the ending of “The Lego Movie.” But, you can’t do the same gag twice, and the film feels half baked and empty because of it.
The plot is extraordinarily simple, even for a kids movie. After his friends are captured by the seemingly evil aliens of the “Systar System” Chris Pratt’s dweeby Emmet must team up with a parody of Chris Pratt’s more recent action hero characters (such as Star-Lord of “Guardians of the Galaxy”) in order to rescue them before “Ourmomageddon” is unleashed. The villain of the first film was the father. It’s not hard to see where “The Lego Movie 2” is going. Unlike the first movie, the writers never appear to be exactly keeping their cards close to their chest. The main plot drags on and on, with none of the main characters seeming to have quite enough to do. Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks, “Pitch Perfect 3”), Batman (Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”) and Emmet’s other friends spend most of the movie trapped in the Systar System without anything interesting to do. Emmet himself mostly meanders around the LEGO cosmic universe without much of an urgency to his actions or a clear path to achieving his goal. The gag of Chris Pratt playing different versions of himself is funny at first but wears thin quickly, and like the other third act twists, its denouncement is predictable.
Musical numbers abound, much more so than were previously present. While these numbers are all fairly interesting in and of themselves, they stop the narrative completely in its tracks. The film never totally justifies its decision to become a half-musical, and although there is a reason for it in-story, it’s an open question whether this particular LEGO movie might have been better off if they had just gone all the way with it and made “The Lego Movie: The Musical.” As it stands, this second Lego movies that we do have accurately reflects with it is like for children to play with Lego, because the story comes across as though it was completely made up as its writers went along. Thematically it doesn’t tie together nearly as well as the original “Lego Movie” and many characters feel lost in the shuffle. The potential and enormity of the world that existed in “The Lego Movie” is gone. The spark is dead: onto the next one.