It’s official — well, at least in my opinion — that the Lego movie franchise is more of a two-hit wonder, with 2014’s Lego Movie remains the best in the series and to a certain extent, the 2017 Lego Batman spinoff. Then along came The Lego Ninjago Movie — easily the weakest of the lot so far, thanks to its formulaic plot and curiously misplaced pop-culture references.
Now, following the disappointment of Lego Ninjago Movie two years ago, I would expect the filmmakers behind the much-anticipated sequel of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part able to restore my faith in this otherwise increasingly diminishing franchise. And frankly, it does show some promises during the first act of the movie: Picking up five years after the events of the 2014 original, construction worker and unlikely saviour Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) and his friends at Bricksburg is now facing a new threat in the form of Duplo invaders. Long story short, they end up wreaking havoc and eventually reduced the otherwise colourful Bricksburg into a post-apocalyptic wasteland dubbed Apocalypseburg. For a while there, the obvious Mad Max reference is well-integrated here and I admit that the sequel is off to a good start.
However, by the time Emmet’s friends (among them are Elizabeth Banks’ Wyldstyle/Lucy, Will Arnett’s Batman and Alison Brie’s Unikitty/Ultrakatty) are captured by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and sent away to the Syster System — a galaxy ruled over by the weird-looking Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), the would-be intergalactic adventure tone turns out to be a wholly generic affair.
Sure, we get all the usual rapid-fire gags and pop-culture references but most of them miss the mark. It doesn’t help either when the screenplay written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller feels surprisingly stale and dated. Not to mention the whole “rescue mission” plot while the subsequent preachy, yet unbelievably sluggish morality lesson appeared in the third act drags longer than it should.
The absence of original Lego Movie helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the directors’ chair is obviously felt in this lacklustre sequel. Replacing them instead is Mike Mitchell, best known for his animated works in Shrek Forever After (2010) and Trolls (2016). Although he does a good job maintaining the same vibrant and colourful animation-style in The Lego Movie 2, his overall direction is rather pedestrian and feels as if he’s more like a work for hire than a visionary director on his own.
The theme song this time around is obviously lacking the same catchy vibe of “Everything Is Awesome” in the 2014 original. What we get here instead is “Catchy Song” and despite the title, it sounds more annoying than catchy.
As for the voice cast, recurring characters including Chris Pratt’s Emmet (who also doubled as his future self dubbed Rex Dangervest) and Elizabeth Banks’ Wyldstyle/Lucy did a decent job reprising their original roles. With the exception of Will Arnett’s Batman, most of the supporting cast from the original is now relegated to background roles. Tiffany Haddish and Stephanie Beatriz — both newcomers to the Lego movie franchise — who supply their respective voice performances as Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi and General Mayhem are sadly forgettable. However, Bruce Willis made quite an impression in a cameo appearance playing a mini-figure version of himself that referenced his famous John McClane character in Die Hard movies.
Despite most of the shortcomings in this sequel, I guess it would come to surprise that many audiences — particularly parents and kids — still show up in droves to watch The Lego Movie 2 in the cinemas, especially given its instant brand recognition and massive popularity of the franchise.