Everything’s not awesome
Things can’t be awesome all of the time
It’s not realistic expectation
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try
To make everything awesome
Well, the sequel to The Lego Movie came out in the US. It’s not out here in Australia yet for some reason, but there was a two day preview showing in the cinemas around the same time as the US release date, I’m guessing as some sort of strategy to minimize all the illegal viewing that impatient fans would be doing? I don’t know. Anyway, my daughter (who, though 14 years old, is still likely to do this sort of thing) was desperate (well, maybe not desperate, but certainly very eager) to see it, so off we went!
The story picks up five years after the battle witnessed at the end of the first movie, where a bunch of Duplo (giant-sized Lego pieces for small children) aliens suddenly invaded Emmet’s world. That world has become a Terminator-like dystopia with only Emmet (Chris Pratt, back again for more) retaining his optimism. When the love of his life (along with a whole bunch of his other friends) is kidnapped by the unknown aliens, Emmet embarks on a perilous journey to rescue her, along the way having to decide whether he must give up his positive outlook in order to be an effective hero. Along the way there are twists and turns and a fairly decent revelation about who the real villain of the piece is.
I really enjoyed the first Lego movie. It was a bit of a “sleeper hit” for me because I went to it with my kids fully expecting to be taking one for the team, and found instead that it was really enjoyable, with fun visuals and characters and just the right amount of pop-culture references, and a surprising dose of heart.
With the sequel I’d say that it pretty much hit all the same marks, which is good, but that it just overcooks them a bit—like the movie would have benefited from a slightly (but only slightly) more restrained hand at the wheel. And with that, I’m really just talking about the visuals and movement, and some of the quirky humor, including the abundant self-aware references.
Now, to digress briefly, I haven’t ever gotten around to seeing The Lego Batman Movie (even though Batman was one of my favorite parts of the first film) but I’ve heard from one friend that that film was an overblown hyperkinetic cacophony of goofiness. Well, those are my words, actually (I can’t think of a single other person I know in real life who would string together the phrase “overblown hyperkinetic cacophony of goofiness”), but that’s the impression his words left me with. Lego Movie 2 threatens to move into that, although I never felt like it tilted over the edge into irredeemable territory.
But there is a lot of silliness being thrown at the audience very quickly, from both director Mike Mitchell and writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. There are times when you are introduced to one crazy idea and then by the time you’ve figured it out you realize that you’ve missed one or two others in the meantime. Now I like crazy ideas and quirky humor, but like I said it wouldn’t have hurt the cohesiveness of the film if just a little bit more logic and restraint had been applied.
But with all of that, I still liked it. Viewers of the first one will know that the conceit of this universe is that all the action we are seeing amongst the Lego characters is really meant to be a representation of the imagination of children as they play with their toys. In the first film this is used to tell a story about a boy and the distance in his relationship with his father. In this movie, the story symbolizes the relationship between the same boy and his younger sister, and to my surprise I found this far more emotionally compelling than the first time around. Maybe it’s just something to do with seeing my own children grow up, but the hurt and disappointment between these siblings felt very authentic to me. The resolution is a bit simplified, of course, but still gratifying (and one I can only hope that certain people important to me were paying attention to–“She just want to play with you, can’t you see that?”)
This general concept, that the Lego characters are really toys, leads to all sorts of confusion about what is really happening, which I assume will lead to some fan-theory videos that my younger kids will watch and that I can ask about later. But the movie probably works best if you apply a form of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 mantra to—if you are worried about it too much, you should probably just relax. Sure, some of the humor is a bit puerile, and it doesn’t completely make sense (there’s a twist about the movie’s main antagonist—the loopy Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi—that I don’t think really bears up under intense scrutiny) but there are lot of funny jokes and clever references, and the movie ultimately demonstrates a maturing view of life (as demonstrated through the song lyrics at the top of the page). If you can stand the overblown packaging, there is a surprising amount of meat in this meal.
Incidentally, Jason Momoa shows up here voicing Aquaman, and playing the character basically exactly as he did in Justice League. If the Lego spoof of a character is exactly the same as the straight presentation of the character, I think it says something about what you are putting on the screen in the first place.