Review: 'Lego Movie 2' builds disappointment

Self-satisfied sequel to 2014 hit takes all the fun out of the Lego world

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pratt voice characters in "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part."

Everything's not awesome. 

"The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" is the over-extended, overly self-referential and overly pleased with itself sequel to 2014's "The Lego Movie," which was hip and fun and irreverent in a way that made everyone a part of the joke. "The Lego Movie 2" makes you wonder if the joke was ever funny in the first place. 

It was, although that's easy to forget when wading through the self-satisfied sludge of "Lego 2." This is a movie for kids that strains itself to not only appeal to adults in the audience but buddy up to them to prove how cool it is. It's the annoying neighbor child that comes over to play with the kids but really wants to hang with the parents, and strike up a conversation about what they read in Variety that day.  

There are jokes about script doctors, social media influencers, "C.P.D.s" (that's shorthand for convenient plot device) and corporate licensing agreements. You know, stuff kids love. It's meta in a way that jokes aren't just made, they're made and it's explained that they're jokes, as if the deconstruction and over-explanation of those jokes makes them funny. It doesn't. 

Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the Batman character, voiced again by Will Arnett. Batman was a scene-stealer in the original "Lego" movie and was successful enough to spin off with 2017's clever "Lego Batman" movie. Here, the well of jokes about Batman's darkness and narcissism is all dried up, and line after line lands with a resounding thud.

Bats makes a joke about having nine different movies made about him and three others in various stages of production, a treat for all the young studio heads out there in the crowd, and he explains, "I carry my tortured past in my chiseled glutes." There's a writer's room in Los Angeles where these jokes were toasted with high fives and frothy mochas. In theaters, they're met with the kind of silence that could rattle a monk.

"Lego 2," written by original "Lego Movie" writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and directed by Mike Mitchell ("Trolls"), unfolds five years after the events of the original movie. The last film ended with the revelation that the film's universe was all in the head of Finn (Jadon Sand), a young child using his imagination to help cope with his overworked father (Will Ferrell).

Finn is more mature now, which leads to lessons in brooding for Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt) and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), stand-ins for Finn's id. Finn's being forced to share his toys with his little sister, Bianca ("The Florida Project's" Brooklyn Prince), which leads to the introduction of Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), a disruption to the tranquility of the Lego landscape. 

"Lego 2" spends a frustrating amount of time spinning its wheels with a plot that involves Emmet trying to rescue his friends from the clutches of Queen Watevra and her people. Batman, who's linked romantically to Queen Watevra, sings a song about Gotham City that is all too pleased to make references to Val Kilmer, Christian Bale and other actors who have played Batman (they're not jokes, the references are the jokes) and a catchy pop song (titled "Catchy Song," natch) is positioned as this movie's "Everything is Awesome."

A late-arriving plot revelation (and an appearance by Maya Rudolph as Finn and Bianca's mother) helps save "Lego 2" from the abyss, but it comes after a deadly hour where all the fun is sucked from the "Lego" world. 

The first "Lego" movie was like rediscovering your favorite childhood toy had been brought to life by the smartest people in the room. "Lego 2" is like stepping on a Lego. And anyone who's ever had the misfortune of stepping on a Lego knows that feeling is anything but awesome. 

'The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part'


Rated PG: for mild action and rude humor

Running time: 107 minutes