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Review: 'Lego Movie 2' clicks, but can't top fantastic original

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The first Lego Movie was, in many ways, a surprise success. That’s not to say anybody expected a failure. Rather, few people could have anticipated just how good the tiny-toy tale would be.

It was so good, in fact, that expectations for its sequel are perhaps unrealistically high. Everything is not as awesome this time around, but there are enough laughs and there’s more than enough heart to make The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part worth seeing.

This movie opens at the original’s cliffhanger: Having swayed his father (Will Ferrell) back to the light, Lego lover Finn (Jadon Sand) now faces a new challenge... his baby sister (Brooklynn Prince) and her Duplo hoard. Down in the Lego world, our humble hero Emmet (Chris Pratt) tries to reason with the Duplos; however, things quickly escalate into all-out war.

We flash forward to five years later. The city of Bricksburg has devolved into a Mad Max-esque dystopia called Apocalypseburg, and its once joyful inhabitants now brood around town in between outsider attacks. When a mysterious invader kidnaps Emmet’s pals, the perpetual optimist ventures off into the unknown: upstairs.

The Lego Movie 2 trades on a lot of the qualities that made its forerunner so successful: meta jokes, pop culture references, celebrity voice cameos, and sight gags. So why does it fall short of the first movie?

Let me reiterate how high the bar was set before stating that the sequel isn’t as funny. It’s not without its laugh-out-loud moments, but a lot of the jokes are rehashes or lack the same punch. Like the narcissistic Batman shtick, what was completely unexpected and original in the 2014 movie has become old hat. This goes for the caped crusader (Will Arnett), who’s on his third Lego outing, but also applies to side characters like Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), who is now almost always in angry mode, and the astronaut Benny (Charlie Day), whose arc ran its course the moment he finally got to build a spaceship.

Unlike the first movie, the human dynamic shifts entirely to the children here, making it less relatable for grownup moviegoers. The Lego Movie’s central conflict was Finn’s dad being an anal-retentive jerk, so it served as both a call for kids to be inventive and as a reminder for adults to have a little childish fun now and again. But The Lego Movie 2 focuses entirely on Finn and Bianca’s inability to get along (the dad doesn’t actually appear in any new scenes), which is reflected in the Lego-verse. So where the first picture was able to expound on the tedium of adulthood and the workweek’s destructive toll on father-son relationships, the second movie presents an overarching moral that’s geared pretty much exclusively to kids: play together.

That’s not a bad thing. This is after all a “kids’ movie.” It’s just a bummer that The Lego Movie 2 doesn’t resonate as strongly with us old folks as its predecessor did. Still, it’s a cute movie, one that will undoubtedly hit home with its younger demo. The blueprint for a shared play experience is sure to inspire the siblings in attendance to reach out a friendly hand when they get home from the movies—and if that’s not a mark of success, what is?

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Director: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
Rated: PG
Theater: Now playing, area theaters