‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’ will leave you feeling blocked
Sometimes the pieces snap together and you get a classic: That was “The Lego Movie” (2014), a blatant brand extension that also functioned as an exuberant, fiendishly clever meta-deconstruction of the art and meaning of play.
And sometimes the pieces snap together into a lumpy lunar rover good for an afternoon’s amusement. That would be “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” a sequel that is noisy, fast, and pretty smart but that lacks the spark of gonzo originality that made the first movie an out-of-nowhere treat.
In short, it’s a sequel.
We should be thankful that the “Lego Movie” brain trust of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are still on board as writers and producers, even if their attentions might have been diverted by the superior “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Mike Mitchell (“Trolls,” a Chipmunks movie) directs, or whatever it is you call overseeing a horde of digital animators while putting voice actors through their paces.
And the underlying sibling rivalry of “The Lego Movie 2” is on point. The snap-together Lego worlds and characters that live on the screen and in the mind of young Finn (Jadon Sand in briefly seen live-action segments) is under assault from his Diplo-obsessed little sister, Bianca, who you may realize with a start is played by Brooklynn Prince of “The Florida Project.” Here’s hoping the movie adds to her college fund, because it doesn’t do much for her resume.
Down in LegoLand, where the itty-bitty characters are unaware of this larger human dynamic, Emmett Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is still a gentle, naïve doofus, and his lady-love Lucy, a.k.a. WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), is still a derring-do badass. Emmett wants to settle down in plastic domesticity, Lucy wants him to toughen up, but the argument turns moot when their nubbly friends are taken prisoner by the little-sister minions of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Whatever You Want to Be, get it?), given gravelly voice by Tiffany Haddish.
The Queen’s domain is a happy pink pleasure dome seemingly designed to drive older brothers and similar macho neurotics around the bend with rage. Lucy sets out with a hardy band of rescuers that include Batman (Will Arnett, amusingly riffing on the actors who have played the role over the years), pirate MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), adorable UniKitty (Alison Brie), and idiot astronaut Benny (Charlie Day). Emmett takes his own journey with Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), a rough, tough Han Solo type who hopes to make the milquetoast a man.
It’s all manic, cross-referencing silliness that often feels forced, until the screenwriters flip the script for a tidy message about getting along if you want to avoid the Ourmompocalypse (given nicely weary live-action presence by Maya Rudolph) and land in the Bin of Sto-rage. Lifts from the “Toy Story” movies and unintended echoes of last year’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” aside, “The Lego Movie 2” suffers less from a lack of ideas than an overdose of them, thrown willy-nilly at the screen without the unifying charge of discovery that lifted up the first film. It’s OK if you feel as exhausted as mom by the end.
Will the kids dig it? Sure, and so may you if you’re in the right mood. But where “The Lego Movie” managed the neat trick of sending up franchise movies while simultaneously being one, “The Second Part” veers perilously close to business as usual. The songs by Jon LaJoie include one “Catchy Song” which boasts that it will get stuck in your head and does. The title of another tune, one that reprises the first movie’s big hit, is closer to the mark. “Everything’s Not Awesome,” but just enough is to keep this series in one piece.
★ ★ ½
THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART
Directed by Mike Mitchell. Written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Matthew Fogel. Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish
At Boston theaters, suburbs, Jordan’s IMAX Reading and Natick. 106 minutes. PG (mild action, rude humor)