If “Cloud Cuckoo Land” was your favorite part of The Lego Movie, you’ll likely love The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.
Chaos reigns in this sequel, much as it did in that wonky corner of the Lego universe, where there were no rules and everything seemed to be made up as things went along. Although it’s written by original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Mike Mitchell takes the helm this time), The Lego Movie 2 seems to frantically scramble in real time to justify the continuation of a story that ended on a note of perfect surprise. There are certainly laughs and clever gags along the way, but there’s also considerable effort, without commensurate payoff.
We discovered, at the end of The Lego Movie, that everything that transpired was part of a controlling father’s attempt to keep his young son from messing up his massive basement Lego city. The Lego Movie 2 transfers that dynamic to the boy, now a few years older (again played by Jadon Sand), and his younger sister (Brooklyn Prince), whose girly creations routinely invade her brother’s Lego space adventures. With frequent cutaways to “real-world” glimpses of the siblings, The Lego Movie 2 loses its sense of self-contained magic. To be fair, that wasn’t a genie that could be put back in the bottle. But then why make another film with this focus?
There are lots of good gags; I loved the subtitled raptor assistants, and an end-credits song by The Lonely Island is the sort of clever meta touch that has distinguished the series. But the movie doesn’t really have the same zip as its predecessor. Either the jokes are more obvious or we’re finally catching up to the comic speed that Lord and Miller have brought to projects as diverse as 21 Jump Street and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And though I can’t believe I’m writing this, the bits involving Lego Batman (Will Arnett) are starting to feel stale.
Ultimately, the ideas at play in The Lego Movie, my favorite film of 2014, were perfectly in sync with the film’s form. It was all about tempering obsessive control with creative freedom (while not giving in to the chaos of Cloud Cuckoo Land). The Lego Movie 2 has a lot on its mind concerning gender, growing up, and individual expression, but it all feels awkwardly and manically retrofitted onto the original film’s premise. It crosses the line from exhilaration to exhaustion, turning endless fun into something of a chore.