Lego Movie 2: “Yikes! It’s a long way down from the heights we achieved with the first one!”
Maybe it’s unfair to open my review of The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part by noting that midway through, my 10-year-old daughter felt compelled to lean over and whisper in my ear, “I don’t like this.” She is not, after all, the critic here (even though Daddy the critic was in robust agreement). She is, however, the target audience, never mind the endless series of winking jokes for the parents in the room. (Hey, we’ve got time travel as a major plot point, so let’s throw in a heavy Back to the Future reference! It won’t matter if the kids don’t get it, as long as we make explicit acknowledgment that the kids don’t get it in the film itself! Because you can never get too meta! Kids love meta! And references to old movies, and also R-rated movies — Mad Max: Fury Road and The Matrix, to name two that the film also names — that they hopefully haven’t seen! And even if they don’t love ‘em, that’s okay, because the references tie into the overall theme of the way that growing up can produce a hardening of the sensitivities. Phew! This sure is an exhausting and dragged-out parenthetical! Kind of like the movie itself! Meta!) And she did make a point of watching the original, which she loved, the night before, just to get herself in the right headspace.
On the one hand, that proved a satisfying move, because The Second Part begins right where the first part left off: with Dad’s casual bombshell that if his son can play in the basement Lego paradise, then so can the son’s younger sister. Cue the arrival of the adorable Duplo destructors, and hello, new central conflict! You might even say that The Second Part connects to the first as snugly as, oh I don’t know, a LEGO brick! Hey, maybe that’s why they called the sequel The Second Part, even after they included a 2 in the title!
On the other hand, it proved a frustrating move, because the sequel suffered all the more by comparison. The conflict here — play with your sister, son, lest all the LEGOs suffer Armomageddon and disappear into the Bin of Storage (pronounced store-AJ) — just isn’t that compelling. There’s a lot of talk about how growing up can interfere with the essential sweetness that makes such sibling cooperation possible — at one point, a character actually goes so far as to say that the action is just an expression of the death of the imagination in the subconscious of an adolescent — but the fact remains that the kid is still young enough at heart and imaginative enough to play with LEGOs, so…what’s the problem, exactly? Never mind, here’s a half-baked song about Batman and romance to take your mind off things!
Oh, and the end credits were old-school cool, even if they did keep the exhausted and exhausting meta thing going with a song about how the best song from a movie is always the one that plays over the credits. My daughter even thought that they were good enough to merit a star.