The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is hilarious, clever fun for all ages, with its humour mostly pitched directly at adults amidst an intelligent storyline.
Post first movie (and The Lego Batman Movie) the Lego world deals with the ramifications of the Duplo invasion, with Emmett (Chris Pratt) the only idiot putting a brave face on things. When a series of characters are abducted by the invading Sistar system, Emmett teams with enigmatic space dude Rex Dangerfield (also Pratt) to save the day.
I know that even five years (!) after the first, there are plenty of adults who still see these films as childish stuff they won’t waste their time on. It’s a shame because for franchise entertainment with a U certificate, based on kids’ toys, they are some of the funniest and sharpest comedies of recent years.
This is in no small part down to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, writers and directors of the Jump Street films and The Lego Movie, and writers and producers of this and Batman. Other than their unfortunate firing from Solo, everything they’ve touched has turned to comedy gold, and The Second Part is no exception – full of their witty writing, knowing references to cinema and pop culture, and general insanity.
New director Mike Mitchell takes these anarchic ideas and plots, utilises the still incredible visual effects, and crafts this around their core ideas to winning effect. His effects team once again use incredible CGI to present what appears to be actual Lego figures and blocks, and some psychedelic lighting.
The comedy here works as it doesn’t pander. A young kid can laugh at the pratfalls of a henchman because he’s a clumsy banana, but adults will be in fits over the snappy little jokes and asides, some so subtle you’re laughing over another joke. The contrast between the baby voices of the Duplo invaders and their destructive actions is just one example.
There is always another joke in the works in dialogue or in the background, and film references are everywhere – visually hilarious nods to Mad Max: Fury Road and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others, and a feast of excellent character cameos from or visual links to others.
If there’s anything to criticise, it’s the increased amount of time spent in the “real” world and a hammering home of the “important messages”. Even kids will be wondering how many more times they’ll be told what the lesson is! This leads me onto the music, which plays a bigger role in proceedings and at first felt wrong – along with the live action segments, one song was the only criticism I could make.
The first film had Everything is Awesome, and the Batman film had a couple of songs, but here this film threatens at one point to be heading towards musical territory. That first song completely stops the flow – but is soon forgotten thanks specifically to another sung by antagonist Queen Watevra Wa’nabi (see the joke in the name?) to Batman, who she is trying to marry.
This floored me because – like Lego Batman – the writers crystallise the neuroses of Batman perfectly. This song is so, so good in fact that it manages to reference every actor who’s played Batman, in rhyme, in context, in two minutes. It’s a work of comic, sophisticated genius that I couldn’t believe someone had crafted for a kid’s film.
And Everything is Awesome has catchy competition – we hear that a couple of times, but the filmmakers then unleash the earwig of all earwigs – Catchy Song – as part of the plot. It works perfectly in context, is hilarious onscreen and a week later I still have it reverberating around my head. It’s diabolical genius, and a brilliantly witty end credits song (featuring Lonely Island) is worth sticking around for too.
Most voice actors return, though quite a few characters are overlooked. Pratt is on double duty as the ever optimistic but concerned Emmett, as well as fantastic parody Rex Dangerfield – spelt out onscreen as an amalgamation of Pratt’s roles in Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World and even Parks and Recreation. He’s a genuinely funny bloke and absolutely loves sending himself up.
You witness all sides of Pratt in any conversation between the two, while Dangerfield’s voice and mannerisms are an excellent parody of Kurt Russell, targeted again at film fans. Pratt’s eager beaver voice and attitude are perfect for a kid’s film, but sending himself up like this makes the dual roles even better.
Elizabeth Banks is a great actress (particularly in comedies) but Lucy has always been a a weaker character (she’s too cool for Emmett! But wait, she’s not!). It’s especially bad when the film has a very strong emphasis on knocking the focus on boy’s toys and creativity. It’s a shame the character is gratingly annoying at times, even in comparison to Emmett’s intolerable optimism – Banks’ best work is when the character is the exasperated, balanced centre in a frenzied series of scenes, as the strained voice of reason.
Will Arnett was never going to be anything but good again as Batman, arrogant, idiotic and hilarious, and his idiocy gaining higher heights particularly in the aforementioned Batman song. His work is only strengthened by the introduction of Tiffany Haddish as the Queen, whose enthusiastic, raspy voice perfectly fits the hyper unpredictability of her character, their surprising double act a hoot.
We hear very little from the first film’s Alison Brie, Charlie Day or Nick Offerman – which is a shame – and there’s no Liam Neeson (though given recent revelations, Lego are probably not too unhappy), but Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz channels her furious macho woman role in that show as the mysterious General Mayhem, her gritted-teeth anger voice perfect for the helmeted henchwoman, and later plot changes giving her a chance to show dramatic range.
Richard Ayoade plays to type as the Queen’s fusty ice cream butler (mirroring the returning Ralph Fiennes’ excellent Alfred), while sublimely, Noel Fielding voices a sparkling beautician vampire. There are also cameos from Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as odd couple Superman and Green Lantern, while Jason Momoa pokes fun at his Aquaman by playing the exact same character (down to the tattoos, whoops and “YEAH”‘s). Maya Rudolph helps make the live action bearable as the wife of Will Ferrell’s father character/mum of the kids, memorably articulating the hell of stepping on Lego.
Finally, there is an absolutely outstanding cameo that got perhaps my biggest laugh – only adults will get the joke and I cannot believe the actor in question did it. That appearance alone, in its utter randomness, is a microcosm of this series’ humour and how perfectly judged it is for older, film aware audiences.
I’ve no doubt these films are some of the funniest I’ve seen at the cinema in recent years. That could be seen as a really sad indictment of adult comedy, but what it suggests is that Lord and Miller (and Lego) have been very astute in realising that kid’s films don’t have to be for kids and tolerant parents – they can be for anyone if they’re made this well.