There have been two other Lego movies since The LEGO Movie (a decent LEGO Batman and a headache-y LEGO Ninjago), but The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is the first direct sequel to the original entry. It feels late, even though it’s only been five years. But while releasing two other franchise entries in between (just eight months apart from each other, no less) has diluted the brand, this frisky followup shows there’s still room to build.
Again written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller but this time directed by Mike Mitchell (Trolls, Shrek Forever After), the sequel continues the adventures of happy-go-lucky Emmet (Chris Pratt) and his new butt-kicking Goth girlfriend, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), in a post-apocalyptic Bricksburg leveled by invading Duplo aliens (i.e., the little sister of the boy whose Legos these are). As Lucy worries that Emmet’s trust and optimism have no place in their harsh new world, she and a handful of others are abducted by alien Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), a shape-shifting entity who welcomes them to her planet and declares her intentions to marry Batman (Will Arnett). Can she be trusted? Well, she sings a song about how not-evil she is, so why not take her at her word?
Emmet sets out to rescue Lucy and friends, which means venturing into “outer space” (i.e., out of the basement). Here he meets someone who can help: Rex Dangervest (Pratt again), a cynical, high-flying space cowboy who is an amalgam of Pratt’s other movie roles, including being a raptor trainer and having “chiseled features previously hidden under baby fat.” Besides assisting with the rescue, Rex gives Emmet advice on how to be a tough action rogue who doesn’t need other people.
That’s not the movie’s lesson, of course. The real lessons are about sharing, co-existing, and working together, and about how mavericks like Rex Dangervest aren’t always as happy as they seem. As before, the animated story is a metaphor for what’s happening in the live-action world, where the boy (Jadon Sand) and his little sister (Brooklynn Prince) keep fighting over the Legos, risking threat of “Armomageddon” (Mom taking the Legos away).
It’s all filled with funny meta-jokes like Bruce Willis living in air ducts, “attractive, nonthreatening teen vampires,” and an unlicensed Disney knockoff called Larry Poppins. The movie’s ostensible target audience won’t catch the references to Mad Max: Fury Road and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but their adult companions might. The novelty has worn off, so this isn’t the same dizzying blast as the first one. But like the plastic bricks themselves, these movies are as much fun for adults as for kids.