Released in 2014, “The Lego Movie” was a delightful animated surprise — ingenious, dazzling, hilarious — one of year’s best films and biggest hits.
Difficult to follow that, “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” still offers whimsical fun.
The biggest danger for a movie based on toys is that it feels like a huge commercial. The second, typified by “Transformers” films, is to be big, loud and stupid.
With its quick wit, impressive visuals and solid idea, “The Lego Movie 2” rises above these pitfalls. It’s only failing: It can’t be as fresh as the original. For long stretches, it’s more pleasantly diverting than exhilarating or hilarious.
“The Lego Movie” ended with father-and-son Lego builders allowing a younger sister to join in on the fun, and Emmet (Chris Pratt) and his pals found themselves faced with giant creatures from the planet Duplo (i.e., those larger versions of Lego bricks, less easy to swallow).
Now, five years later, the Duplo creatures have destroyed everything that was ever awesome about the Lego world. It’s a “Mad Max”-like wasteland, where only Emmet remains cheerful.
But then a strange, masked alien arrives and kidnaps Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), pirate MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) and spaceman Benny (Charlie Day), to take them to the “Systar” system for a wedding.
They meet Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who tries to convince them that she is not evil, and tries to convince Batman to be the groom in the wedding.
Meanwhile, Emmet attempts to rescue his friends, and finds help from chiseled adventurer Rex Dangervest, who sounds for all the world like Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton in “Big Trouble in Little China.”
But Emmet has also had a vision of something called the “Armomageddon,” which sounds like something that ought to be avoided.
While the wordplay in this sequel isn’t quite as inspired as, say “Kragle” (i.e. “Krazy Glue”) was in the first film, the out-of-nowhere, 180-degree humor still works well.
Like the original, “The Lego Movie 2” is computer animated, but treated as if it were stop-motion, using digital renditions of real-world Lego bricks.
With up-to-the-moment jokes about gender roles, this sequel is more sympathetic to women than the first one.
The “Systar” (sounds like “sister”) system offers something different from the first film, a focus on lovely things, on dancing and cakes. It embraces, instead of ridicules, unicorns and glitter and pink hearts, which are viewed as valuable to females rather than invaluable to males.
One of the “Systar” system’s most ingenious/insidious features is a tune called “Catchy Song,” whose bouncy chorus promises “This song is gonna get stuck inside your head.” It does.
Another fine touch is an update of the anthem “Everything Is Awesome.” In this version, everything isn’t awesome, but that’s OK; it’s good to have hope and to keep trying.
Emmet’s character arc continues in a satisfying way; while Wyldstyle early on accuses him of being too kind and upbeat, both learn that those are, indeed, positive qualities. It’s a message worth hearing again.
In short, while “The Lego Movie 2” doesn’t tower over its predecessor, it adds to the franchise’s bricky structure with a satisfying click.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Starring: Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish
Written by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Matthew Fogel
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes