Lackluster Blockbuster

Five years ago, The LEGO Movie was a breath of animated fresh air, a self-aware surprise appealing to both kids and adults. After mixed results and reviews for two spinoffs (both The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie dropped in 2017), here comes The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, a sequel as vacuous and uninspired as its title.

Set five years after the original, the Warner Animation Group film follows evil invaders of the Systar System who’ve destroyed hero Emmet’s (voice of Chris Pratt) home of Bricksburg. It’s so desolate, it looks like the dystopian wasteland of Mad Max: Fury Road. Emmet believes he can reason with Systar leader General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz’ voice), but to no avail. If he can’t stop Mayhem, “Ar-mom-ageddon” is inevitable. Worse, Mayhem kidnaps Emmet’s friends Batman (voice of Will Arnett), Lucy (voice of Elizabeth Banks), Benny (Charlie Day’s voice), MetalBeard (voice of Nick Offerman) and Unikitty (voice of Alison Brie), and intends to force Batman to marry her shape-shifting queen, Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish’s voice).

Those who saw the 2014 original know the movie’s events were within the LEGO set of real-life boy Finn (Jadon Sand), whose father (Will Ferrell) was the villain for not spending enough time with him. Now Finn has a sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), who steals and breaks his LEGOs, so they fight all the time, which means their mom (Maya Rudolph) will get rid of the LEGOs for good if they don’t cut it out. One look at the names “Systar System” and “Ar-mom-ageddon” shows the parallels between real life and animated events are again connected, though director Mike Mitchell should have made it easier to understand that what we see comes from Finn’s imagination.

One of the delights of the LEGO films is their cheerful optimism coupled with self-aware humor. That’s all here again, but with less success. Sure, it’s amusing to hear Batman talk about desired solitude, but it’s stale when we saw a whole movie of those jokes two years ago. And it was cute the first time we saw Superman (Channing Tatum’s voice) and other Justice Leaguers pick on Green Lantern (Jonah Hill’s voice), but now it’s lame. Not even a few surprising cameos can salvage how rote this feels (though Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Bruce Willis come close!)

Sadly, the LEGO movie pieces are old and don’t fit. It’s hard to LEGO (ha!) of something that worked so well. Or maybe The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is just short a few blocks. You can still get some pleasure from it, even if you know how much better it once was.