The big reveal at the end of the first LEGO Movie was one of the most brilliant in the history of animated films, since it capped a fairly hilarious mock-dystopian story with a credibly affecting framing device that not only put the mock-dystopian story into proper perspective, but gave it an emotional force that you couldn’t have expected given the overall comic thrust of the movie. Obviously, the sequel isn’t going to be able to deliver the same kind of thrill. As they used to joke in the old Looney Tunes shorts when the guy blows himself up to impress a vaudeville talent agent, yeah, it’s great, but you can only do it once.
Nevertheless, on the road to the sequel we’ve already had two LEGO-associated features, and while The LEGO Movie 2 isn’t as sharp and startling as the first one, it’s definitely more coherent, and much funnier, than The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie. In the four years since the first one ended, the city of Bricksburg has become the LEGO version of Los Angeles in Blade Runner, and is now called Apocalypseburg. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) of the eternally annoying sunny disposition is back as the protagonist, still pursuing the mildly transgressive Lucy Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) with middling success owing to that disposition. The reason for Bricksburg’s declining fortunes—though actually the result of preadolescent prerogatives outlined in the continuing framing device—is periodic invasions from outer space aliens. Emmet rallies Batman (Will Arnett) and other superheroes to fight the aliens, but they lose easily, and Queen Watevra Wa’nabi (Tiffany Haddish), the leader of the Systar System, kidnaps Emmet’s confederates and attempts to brainwash them. Emmet, meanwhile, has hooked up with the cool space adventurer Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) to save his friends, but, naturally, it ends up being Lucy who saves everyone, including Emmet.
Though the wonderfully nonsensical songs and cannily knowing pop culture references never flag in the humor department and, thus, can be something of a pleasant distraction from all the development, the development is worth paying attention to, even when it veers into the seriously absurd, as when Batman discourses on the various incarnations his persona has gone through at the hands of his overlords here at DC-Warner Brothers. Eventually, the ostensible Bricksburg story intersects with the framing device, which didn’t happen in the first movie, and while it isn’t as memorable as the first movie’s denouement, it’s inventive and thought-provoking nonetheless. In other words, you really do need to see The LEGO Movie to fully appreciate The LEGO Movie 2, but you’ll love The LEGO Movie 2 for its own sake.
Now playing with subtitles in Tokyo at Shinjuku Picadilly (050-6861-3011) at 10:55 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. only.
The LEGO Movie 2 home page in Japanese.
photo (c) 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./The LEGO Group