The LEGO Movie could’ve easily carried water for the bottom line of a toy company. Instead, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 2014 film carried audiences of any age — LEGO fans or otherwise — on a loop-de-loop, rat-a-tat adventure that both celebrated and deconstructed the hero’s journey.
By contrast, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part finds the same folks pulling time-and-a-half to make up for all that water they left at the bottom of the hill last time. They dangle only the largest, heftiest buckets from their yokes to ensure no one at LEGO goes thirsty.
To watch it is to feel like you’ve freebased fifteen 5-Hour Energy drinks, whatever perks you feel just as superficially induced. Once the crash happens, you appreciate the sincerity, skill and smarts with which Ralph Breaks the Internet — even with an entire scene of Disney princesses to promote — achieved the same tone of a child-friendly Ragnarok ‘n’ roll without resorting to such Kidz Bop generics. The Blu-ray release represents a lot of Dolby Atmos sound and 1080p fury for the message of playing nice with your siblings so your parents can keep buying you more LEGOs.
The Second Part picks up right where the first ended, as the Duplo invaders arrive to lay waste to Bricksburg. And they are persistent. Every time something new goes up, the Duplos destroy it, albeit with love. Five years later, Bricksburg has become Apocalypseburg, its barren design implying that Finn (the young live-action boy from the first film) likely saw all of Mad Max: Fury Road after his parents fell asleep at some point.
When a mysterious masked character named Sweet Mayhem (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) arrives with the promise of a peaceful treaty, Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) and friends are inherently suspicious. Are Mayhem and her crew plotting the largest attack yet? Could there be another interloping villain in the wings?
Lord and Miller yielded the directors’ chairs here to Mike Mitchell and Trisha Gum (officially credited as animation director but as “co-director” by Mitchell early in the Blu-ray’s commentary). But the duo behind the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Jump Street franchises returned to write the script. This time, Lord and Miller seem more interested in taking a piss than taking a fun ride. It’s essentially a shameless victory lap for Warner Brothers and the successful properties it owns, right down to Jason Momoa turning up to voice “new Aquaman.” Perhaps audiences smelled the odor of self-satisfactions wafting off this mistake, which took in 60% less money worldwide than its infinitely superior source material. “Thought you’d be more excited,” Emmet utters at one point. You said it, my relentlessly optimistic friend.
For no good reason, The Second Part is stuffed with milquetoast music written by comedian Jon Lajoie. (Doing Lajoie no favors is the Lonely Island, returning alongside Beck and Robyn, for “Super Cool,” a closing-credits banger that even you will want to dance to and which represents the film’s creative highpoint.) At least Lajoie’s songs are robustly represented on the thunderous Atmos soundtrack, creatively panning across all channels. (Side note regarding other songs on the soundtrack: Between this and Hellboy, there must be a licensing sale right now on “Kickstart My Heart.”)
Ping-ponging sound effects also impress during Emmet’s voyage through the Stairgate, and the power-punches thrown by several characters pack a walloping whomp of bass response. The visual transfer is also exceptional, showing off infinitesimal detail on the LEGO mini-figs down to sand caked on their lower halves and scuff marks from Apocalypseburg’s rough new reality. If only the muscle and energy of the audiovisual presentation matched the storytelling.
Special features are plentiful, if uninspired. At least the menu is honest, straight-up four short featurettes as Promotional Material, including one with LEGO vice president of design Matthew Ashton referring to new mini-figs as though they were seasonal couture.
“They Come in Pieces: Assembling The Lego Movie 2” is a featurette in which Pratt, Beatriz, Lord, Miller, Mitchell and Gum — along with voice actors Elizabeth Banks, Tiffany Haddish, Alison Brie and Will Arnett — give more thought to the story’s alleged theme of empathy than the movie itself. Pratt also describes the voice he developed for a second new character who turns up here as “a real process.” Amusing, because it more or less sounds like he really honed a Kurt Russell impersonation while making Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Mainly, you’ll want to know what’s on voice actor Nick Offerman’s blurred-out shirt in this featurette. (Given Offerman’s thoughts, he seems to be the only one who understands the puff of these promo pieces.)
“Emmet’s Holiday Party” is a two-minute short illustrating our hero’s attempt to bring yuletide joy to Apocalypseburg. (“Tharrrrr she glows!,” Offerman’s Metalbeard shouts about Emmet’s tree.)
Additionally, there are 12 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes ranging from full animation to storyboard photographs. Here, you see the crumbs of early, stated efforts to incorporate more meaningful female characters and discussions in The Second Part. Most of the 12 minutes is taken up by a long sequence in which Lucy and Sweet Mayhem are trapped in a real-world Roomba. This segment would have been a better way to blend the creative feminine expression of the real-world brother and sister, making more believable their eventual reconciliation. As presented in finished form, the “female” aspects of The Second Part simply extend to over-caffeinated animation aesthetics.
Mitchell, Lord, Miller and Gum offer feature-length commentary, but it’s not even three minutes in before this quartet — all clearly in the same room — wonders aloud what it can tell people about this movie. “It’s a sequel,” one of them says, illustrating the general uselessness of this feature, before wondering aloud if the Lord Business character wears a thong.
No surprise, then, that the best special feature mirrors the best part of the film. A lyric video for “Super Cool” helps you sing along by projecting adjectives applicable to a lot of things … except the movie you just finished. In fact, why don’t you just watch it right here?
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is available today on Blu-ray and DVD.