3.5 out of 5 stars

Sequels aren’t usually better than the originals. They’re sometimes on par, but they don’t tend to exceed expectations. When it comes to surprise hits, however, the odds get infinitely slimmer, as low expectations for the first creates inflated expectations for a follow-up. The filmmakers then have to make a tough decision: do they give the audience another surprise and hope that they like it (again), or do they capitalise on the first and deliver something very similar?

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is clearly in the second camp. Following the events of The Lego Movie (2014), and set in the same universe as The Lego Batman Movie (2017) and The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017), Lego Movie 2 picks up the story five years as Bricksburgs becomes Apocalypseburg thanks to the actions of the children in the ‘real world’.

Released just in time for the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day holidays, this sequel is primed for box office success, as long as it repeats the fourth-wall-breaking and self-aware tone of the original.

In that sense, this film delivers. It’s all inside jokes and fun references and incorporates a lot more of the real world into the Lego World. It takes a while to get into the story, thanks to a quick 10-minute montage that rushes through the premise, but after that’s done and dusted  Lego Movie 2 slows down and allows audiences to revel in its hilarity. It’s a movie about Lego figurines, and director Mike Mitchell and writers-producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, know that.

The Second Part is meant to be an enjoyable romp through the Lego Universe and succeeds thanks to the introduction of new universes and new characters, all spouting lines that are now easily identifiable as written by Lord and Miller. They’ve cornered the market on writing comedy for the masses while keeping a tight grip on the delicate balance between fratboy humour and wordplay. Even though many of their jokes veer on the physical, there’s enough wit and fun to even it out and ensure we aren’t subjected to pratfalls over and over again. Even if you didn’t see the first film, it’s not hard to get into this, and kids always have something to laugh at while adults are given plenty of wry observations and references to smile at. As a comedy for the whole family, the film flourishes.

This is also thanks to the excellent voice actors, and with the addition of comedian Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, who’s looking for a mate, the film takes on a more mature tone. But returning actors Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett help to anchor the film with their childish glee. In terms of actors from the live-action ‘real world’, Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project), is a standout and helps us better understand the actions and motivations of a younger sister desperate to play with her older brother.

The movie isn’t just a one-note comedic story, though. As with the original, there are larger topics at play and the plot works to bridge the actions of the ‘real world’ and the Lego Universe. As the Lego characters work to avoid ‘Our-Mom-Ageddon’, there are many scenes that show the ‘real world’ actors physically moving these Lego figurines. That allows the audience to maintain their suspension of disbelief, even when some figurines seem to go full ‘Toy Story’ in their ability to move without human manipulation.

However, Lego Movie 2 does end up pushing its story a little too far by the end. There’s a time travel element, in addition to the aforementioned ‘Toy Story’ evolution, and that brings up a lot more questions than answers. Even though the film tries to assuage our concerns with well-placed lines about children’s imaginations, it still made the film too far-fetched to be as believable as the original Lego Movie.

Music was another core part of the original film, with “Everything is Awesome” even nominated for ‘Best Original Song’ at the Academy Awards. The success of that earworm has clearly influenced the sequel, as Lego Movie 2 features just as many original songs as before. Those created to become annoyingly memorable (such as “Catchy Song”) work the best since they match the overall tone of the film. However, there are also a few (like “Not Evil”) that take away from the enjoyment as it makes the movie feel like an earnest Disney musical.

In the end, while Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a delight to watch and is certainly more enjoyable than box office rival How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), it’s a stretch to say it’s as good as the first one. The original benefitted more from low expectations and a spectacular twist, while the sequel tries to stuff too many new ideas into the runtime and ends up being funny but littered with plot holes. It’s a spectacular family film to watch on the big screen, but one that doesn’t hold up when you start thinking a little further. Would I recommend it? Yes, just but not as enthusiastically as I’d recommend Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse (2018), Lord and Miller’s other recent release.

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director: Mike Mitchell.
writers: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (story by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Matthew Fogel).
voices: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman & Maya Rudolph.