Five years ago, "The LEGO Movie" came out of left field and surprised the hell out of me. I was not expecting much and I'd largely been ignorant of the toys so it was a complete shock to be pulled in and transfixed as I was. Of course the bigger shock later that year was the film not only did not win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, it was not even nominated. It was a top five film on my list that year, and the "Batman LEGO Movie " from two years ago also made my top ten. These movies are really something.
The novelty may have worn off a little with this second part, but the story telling is as strong as the first film. Like the original movie, there is a theme to the events shown during the story. Unlike the first film however, there is not the same kind of surprise. We know that the LEGO Universe exists in the real world and the plotlines here are not very hard to dig at to get to the moral. The screenwriters don't cover it up, hell you know it is coming before they do, but that doesn't keep it from resonating with us at the end of the film.
The pop culture references in the movie give us plenty of chances to laugh at movies we have seen before. From Mad Max to Jurassic Park to Guardians of the Galaxy, they are all here to some degree. The opening section where the Lego world has been turned into a dystopian nightmare complete with creative vehicles that would fit on Fury Road, is the most elaborate parody in the story, but it is also fun that Chris Pratt gets to spoof himself as action hero in two other franchises as well. The visuals are really inventive as is the work of the directors, who keep everything flowing and funny simultaneously.
"Everything is Awesome" gets recycled in the film pretty effectively with a twist that might be a little too obvious, but there are two or three more musical spots that work even better. In particular, "Gotham City Guys" should have you laughing out loud. It's a great mix of visual bits and the lyrics will crack you up. Also, "Not Evil" plays as an insincere denial of intent because of the context, but at the end of the movie it really fits in well with the theme that the story supports. Will Farrell has one nearly static scene and then is only heard from again as an off camera voice. Instead Maya Rudolph steps in as the human adult that hovers over the events in the story. In my mind, that is an improvement.
The voice cast is back for the most part, but the big names have only a line or two. My favorite addition to the cast has to be John McClane himself, who shows up a couple of times including a scenario that was just perfect. The novelty has probably worn off of the franchise but the inventiveness and humor have not. Once again we have an adult parody film, posing as a kids movie and both sections of the audience will be satisfied.