Everything is considerably less awesome in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which lacks the freshness that made its predecessor such a pleasant surprise.
The construction isn’t as sturdy in this sequel to the delightful 2014 romp based on the plastic brick toys that has already spawned two spinoffs in addition to this follow-up. However, it bombards the senses without benefiting as much from its charming visual approach — for example, the way in which the rudimentary Lego character movements are integrated into a high-tech fantasy world. What once seemed innovative now feels familiar.
At any rate, the story picks up with perpetually optimistic construction worker Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) again forced into action-hero status once his romantic interest Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and others are abducted when the evil Diplo-style toys invade and destroy their town.
His subsequent odyssey to rescue Lucy, along with Batman (Will Arnett) and Unikitty (Alison Brie), is perilous, especially when he comes into contact with a doppelganger who might be from the future, and a shapeshifting queen (Tiffany Haddish) who rules an alternate universe.
The screenwriting tandem of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller lampoons a broad range of pop-culture targets, including those in the science-fiction and fantasy realm, as well as the expected satirical superhero zingers.
The rapid-fire sight gags and one-liners produce some scattered big laughs, although outside of its overflowing non sequiturs, the script offers an inconsequential story with half-hearted lessons of courage, compassion, and childhood innocence. The musical numbers are generally lackluster, and the obligatory big twist is clever yet inferior.
On the plus side, Emmet remains an appealing protagonist, the voice cast is once again amusing, and the animation is still impressive given the physical constraints of the toys. That’s true even if we’ve essentially seen it before.
Lord and Miller hand off the directing duties to Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After), whose barrage of hyperactive action sequences fill every frame with constant mayhem, which might appeal most directly to moviegoers with short attention spans.
Of course, no movie in the expanding Lego empire would be complete without an aggressive dose of product placement for the youngsters, trying to help the company meet its post-holiday sales goals. While it seemed rather good-natured the first time, such efforts are more forced in a sequel that’s more exhausting than endearing.