Having achieved so loftily on Earth, the “LEGO Movie” franchise had nowhere to go but up - all the way to the alternate DUPLO universe, home to the female-centric Systar System. But not before first checking in on Emmet, Lucy, Batman and the rest of their plastic pals moping around the ruins of their no-longer awesome Bricksburg. That’s where the story begins for “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part.” It’s been five years since sealing the demise of Lord Business and his weapon of mass adhesion, the Kragle (aka Krazy Glue). But, as you’ll remember, the last movie ended with two gender-bending developments: One, the arrival of the lethal-minded female aliens from the planet DUPLO; and two, the incumbent arrival of the human sorceress, Bianca (“The Florida Project’s” Brooklynn Prince), the younger sister of the last movie’s Bricksburg-shattering human interloper, Finn (Jadon Sand).
The twin intrusions result in plastic Armageddon, or Apocalypseburg, as the handful of survivors call their crumbled metropolis in the wake of an all-out blitz by the way-out women warriors from DUPLO. But that’s not the worst. The sisters from the Systar System are about to kidnap Lucy (voice of Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), among others, and fetch them back to their planet as part of a plan to find a suitable mate for their shape-shifting ruler, Queen Waterva Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Thus, the stage is set for a clueless Emmet (the priceless Chris Pratt) to discover a way of rescue them all.
At least that’s the premise for the ensuing bombardment of self-deprecating META parodies, rampant movie referencing, clever puns and enough infectious musical numbers - featuring the sure-to-be Oscar-nominated, “Catchy Song” - to (as that song’s title promises) “get inside your he-he-he-head.” As if that wasn’t enough, Emmet is presented with an alter-ego in the aptly named Dangervest (also hilariously voiced by Pratt), doing double duty as a mentor for his orange-vested counterpart and as an even funnier send up of Pratt’s numerous blockbuster film roles. Or, as Dangervest describes himself, “a galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy and raptor trainer.”
Dangerfest, of course, is the LEGO man Emmet wants to be as opposed to the wimpy LEGO man he is. Given Emmet, and his “nice-guy” passivity, he pretty much would be happy to remain that way - content just sipping his morning coffee - forever. But the punkish, and ever-more-depressed Lucy, aka, Wyldstyle, would like to see Emmet grow a pair and stop behaving like a naive child. And her abduction affords Emmet that chance. But can he bumble his way to again emerging the hero? The answer to that query is obvious. But no matter; the pleasure is in watching him try.
Even better is another transformation, this one involving the narcissistic Batman, who Queen Waterva seeks to domesticate in preparation for what she hopes will be a royal superhero wedding, even though her betrothed vows to remain “a permanent bat-chelor.” Then there’s Batman’s hated rival, Superman (Channing Tatum), still pestered by the annoying Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), but also prime to make Batman insecure enough to say “I do” to the Queen.
The Caped-Crusader’s fragile ego is clearly his kryptonite, leading to a wonderful bit about who is the best Batman, running the gamut from Adam West to Christian Bale and everyone in between - and after (That’s you, Ben Affleck!). The downside to all this mayhem is that writers/creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller feed us the gags (and name-dropping) so fast and furious, you can’t possibly keep up, which - come to think of it - is an excellent way to ensure repeat business. It’s the same for all the cameos, especially a very funny running bit about a certain chrome-domed actor known for crawling around in air vents.
Yet, it’s the half-dozen musical numbers that give this “LEGO Movie” its zeal. Well, that and all the great jokes. But truth be told, “2” plays a distant second to the original. Where that one had a straight-line story about believing in yourself, the sequel is pretty much all over the place, giving you the sense Lord and Miller mined all their best stuff the first time out. This go-round, it feels rushed and disjointed, with way too many mindless action scenes. They and director Mike Mitchell (“Trolls”) also appear to be bending over backward to highlight the underlying theme of girls loving LEGO, too.
Still, it’s sufficiently amusing, abetted by the terrific voice work and (despite being shoehorned in) a wonderfully sweet moral about the sibling love between Bianca and Finn set amongst a tear-inducing melancholic truth about growing up and boxing-up your playthings straight out of “Toy Story 3.” Yes, we’ve seen it before. But, damn, if it still doesn’t get to you - like an interlocking brick upside the head.
Al Alexander may be reached at email@example.com.
“The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part”
Featuring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish and Alison Brie.
(PG for mild action and rude humor.)