Relishing in the charm of its meta-humor and the infectious energy of its voice cast, The LEGO Movie 2 can be marked down as a successful sequel to its predecessor. Handing the directing reigns over to Mike Mitchell (Trolls), Phil Lord and Chris Miller return to write a sequel that is a lot of fun. Part of the reason a movie like this can exist is the talent behind it. I think most people could be found collectively groaning when it was first revealed that Warner Bros. was diving into the world of a popular children’s toy to make a movie. But as they did with their Jump Street reboot and its sequel that followed, Lord and Miller defied expectations again. In The LEGO Movie 2, Lord and Miller double down on the meta aspects of the series. Though the constant satire is ratcheted up to levels that do ultimately feel overwrought, the film never compromises its ambitions.

With a returning main voice cast and a bevy of wonderful additions, the movie’s ensemble feels well matched, and they have assembled some of the more charismatic voices in Hollywood. With Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett are among the notable returners, Tiffany Haddish leads the new additions. Banks and Pratt occupy the center of the film, with Pratt playing two characters. Pratt’s Emmet Brickowski is the same “everything is awesome” guy he was in the first film, even though the landscape has dramatically changed in Bricksburg.

In a brilliant stroke of storytelling, the Lego Duplo’s have invaded and continue to destroy things as the citizens of the town attempt to rebuild, but fail every time. Eventually, Emmet and his friends descend into a Mad Max: Fury Road world. Lucy, a.k.a. Wyldstyle, voiced by Banks is seen “brooding” and delivering a noir-like narration explaining that the desolation has turned Surfer Dave into Chainsaw Dave. It’s all very funny, and some wonderful parody aspects. However, some elements of Lord and Miller’s satire grow old, including the other character Pratt voices, Rex Dangervest, essentially being Pratt doing his best late 80’s Kurt Russell impression.

Yet, where it falters with some over-reliance on parody and meta-gags, The LEGO Movie 2 offers enough heart and laughs for all ages. Visually arresting, the film’s animation is really quite stellar and captures a different aesthetic than the original film. Does it get a little silly at times? Sure. It’s hard to fully criticize something not made for late 20’s adults like myself. Adults taking the kiddos will likely find some of its message to be redundant. There’s plenty to like here within the film for everyone, particularly a plot that uses clever devices to deliver a story that feels complex and satisfying.

If there’s a big criticism to be pointed out about the film it’s that its transitions between the real world and the LEGO world feel less fluid. It introduces Maya Rudolph as the Mom to Will Ferrel’s Dad which offers some pretty funny moments. In those moments though, Lord and Miller seem to be playing way more with a Toy Story-esque element to the blending of these two worlds.

The LEGO Movie 2 doesn’t phone it in and seems to have more ambitions than its predecessor. While it doesn’t quite reach the levels of the 2014 installment that shocked the world, and famously didn’t get an Oscar nomination many thought it would win. Those ambitions are often fully realized. Sometimes it gets messy and a little unclear the direction the filmmakers want to take it. Nevertheless, its a sequel worthy of a recommendation for the laughs, heart, and energy it provides. It may suffer from the law of diminishing returns like all franchises often do, but its a film that ultimately still feels fresh and exciting five years later.

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