Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Will Ferrell, Richard Ayoade, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill (voices), Maya Rudolph
Written by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, based on a story by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Matthew Fogel
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor
Running Time: 106
Date: 02/07/2019

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Brick Witted

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Released almost exactly five years ago, The Lego Movie was a delightful surprise, ingenious, dazzling, hilarious, and one of the best films of the year, as well as one of its biggest hits.

It's difficult to follow a film like that, but The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which opens Friday in Bay Area theaters, still offers a great deal of whimsical fun.

The biggest danger for a movie based on a line of toys is, of course, to look and feel like a huge commercial. The second biggest danger, as typified by the Transformers films, is to be big and loud and stupid.

With its quick wit and impressive visuals, as well as a solid idea for a sequel, The Lego Movie 2 quickly rises above these pitfalls. It's only failing is that it can never be as fresh as the original; for long stretches it's more pleasantly diverting than it is 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 (voiced by Chris Pratt) and his pals found themselves faced with giant creatures from the planet Duplo (i.e. those larger, kid 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 (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie), pirate MetalBeard (voiced by Nick Offerman), and spaceman Benny (voiced by Charlie Day), to take them to the "Systar" system for a wedding.

They meet Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (voiced by 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 the 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.

The wordplay in this sequel isn't quite as inspired as, say "Kragle" (i.e. "Krazy Glue") was in the first film, but the same brand of out-of-nowhere 180-degree humor still works quite well.

As with the first film, The Lego Movie 2 is computer animated, but has been treated as if it were stop-motion, using digital renditions of Lego bricks that exist in the real world.

As the movie feels more sympathetic to women, with up-to-the-moment jokes about gender roles, the "Systar" system (hint: sounds like "sister") offers something quite different from the first film.

Its focus is on lovely things, on dancing and cakes. But rather than ridiculing unicorns and glitter and pink hearts, the movie embraces them. They are not viewed as being invaluable to males, but rather as valuable to many females.

One of the "Systar" system's most ingenious/insidious features is a song called "Catchy Song," whose bouncy, cheerful chorus promises "This song is gonna get stuck inside your head." It does.

Another of the movie's fine touches is an update of the previous movie's anthem "Everything Is Awesome." In this version, everything isn't awesome, but that's okay, and it's good to have hope and to keep trying.

And Emmet's character arc continues in a satisfying way; while Wyldstyle early on accuses him of being too kind and upbeat, both characters learn that those are, indeed, positive qualities and not negative ones. And while this may seem obvious, it's certainly a message that is worth hearing again.

In short, while The Lego Movie 2 doesn't exactly tower over its predecessor, it adds on to the franchise's bricky structure with a satisfying click.

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