‘The Lego Movie 2’ rebuilds to stay awesome

Joshua Lloyd, Editor-in-Chief

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It feels like it’s been forever since Emmet, Wyldstyle and the rest of the Lego gang made everything awesome in 2014. Back then, our elected officials weren’t openly stoking racism and homophobia to win votes. The man-baby who happens to be President of the United States had yet to announce his candidacy and our Thanksgiving dinner discussions weren’t so intense. It’s enough to turn the most upbeat attitudes into those of world-weary cynics.
So cue the teen-dream pop music and go see “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” cause it’s the closest we’ll get to childlike wonder and escapism without caving in and buying the overpriced building sets ourselves.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are back in their stellar screenwriting roles, but they’ve handed over their directing responsibilities to Trisha Gum (an alum of “Robot Chicken”) and Mike Mitchell (whose directing credits are a true mixed bag). It’s a dream-team combination for nonstop fun and irreverence, and those are the bricks this outrageous Lego franchise is made of.

At first, we’re back under the plastic skyline of Bricksburg, where our ABS heroes are celebrating their Taco Tuesday victory over President/Lord Business and his dastardly Kragle. When aliens from Planet Duplo beam down and crash the party, things get ugly fast. Chaos ensues as Emmet (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and the others scramble to stop the invasion force. (President Business takes off to play golf rather than help solve the problem. Looking at you, Washington).

Fast-forward five years, and nonstop clashes with the Duplo invaders have turned Bricksburg into ruins. The citizens call the dusty settlement of Apocalypseburg home and drive spiked battle cars in a not-so-subtle nod to “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Only Emmet, who walks around in a cloud of endless positivity, still thinks everything is awesome, despite Wyldstyle and the rest of the crew telling him to get with the times and grow up.

Before he can find his inner edgelord, an alien envoy by the name of General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) shows up and demands that the citizens take her to their leader. There’s a wedding happening in the Systar System and the big names of Apocalypseburg are invited.     

Mayhem doesn’t wait for an RSVP, taking Wyldstyle, Bats, Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Benny (Charlie Day) and Unikitty (Alison Brie) for an audience with Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi. Gum, Mitchell and company struck gold casting Tiffany Haddish as the shape-shifting ruler of the sinister (and sparkly) Systar System. Watevra’s not an evil queen. In fact, she’s so not-evil that she has a theme song explaining how not-evil she is.

Seems legit, but not to Wyldstyle. The ex-rebel doesn’t buy the Queen’s glittery show of goodwill and decides to investigate the true nature of the “matrimonial ceremony” Watevra and her servants won’t shut up about.

Meanwhile, Emmet’s attempt to find his cohorts goes pear-shaped and he runs into Rex Dangervest (also Pratt, in the ultimate form of self-deprecation), a mashup of a space outlaw, a dino wrangler, a cowboy and an office assistant. Rex is convinced that Emmet needs to toughen up and use nothing but angry machismo to save the universe. Emmet buys into it, a choice that has dire consequences when the plot starts to thicken.

This isn’t the place you’d expect to find a mini-commentary on the dangers of toxic masculinity, but hey, let’s not complain. It’s never too early for the kiddies to learn.

For all its unbridled imagination, “The Second Part” can’t match the novelty of the first because you only get to be the shiny new toy in the playroom once. But the film seems well-aware of this and, like a kid with a box of jumbled Lego parts, pieces together something new instead of rebuilding the past.

Gone is the scrappy, new-kid-on-the-block attitude of the original, replaced by a biting self-awareness that this burgeoning franchise needs in order to stay afloat. The characters crack jokes about Batman’s 2017 solo outing, Benny’s one-dimensional SPACESHIP!! obsession and the dearth of Marvel superheroes in the DC-heavy series (apparently, the makers of the MCU won’t return their calls).

And to keep the parents in the crowd at attention, Gum and Mitchell have sprinkled the trippy-looking Lego galaxy with tons of Gen X touchstones, including some on-the-nose “Alien” shout-outs, an action star who spends too much time in air ducts and even the mother-lovin’ DeLorean.     

  
Kids will look at “The Lego Movie 2” and see a fun-filled adventure that doubles as a lesson in why you should be nice to your siblings. Adults who were dragged along will see a poignant reminder that growing older doesn’t have to mean growing up.

Regardless of your age, you’ll leave with “Catchy Song” stuck in your head, dammit. Worth it, though? You bet, because under the excess razzle-dazzle that almost outshines the bruised heart of the movie, pretty much everything is … you know.