Movie review: 'The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part'

Brad Keefe

Everything was awesome.

All the way back in 2014 (a simpler time), it was easy to be cynical about “The Lego Movie.” I mean, you don't get much more shameless than a movie based on a wildly successful toy line, even if those toys are pretty cool and encourage creativity.

Turns out that creativity, wit and heart can make all the difference. Oh, and an earworm theme song doesn't hurt either.

It wasn't just the runaway success of the original that led to “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.” The first movie ended with an obvious (if cheeky) setup for a sequel — not so much a cliffhanger as a fun tip to the possibility of more adventures.

That setup in the land of LEGO known as Bricksburg was an invasion by some Duplo “aliens” (Duplo being the younger sibling line for kids not old enough for LEGO).

The sequel picks up at the same moment, before flashing forward a bit to a near-future dystopian version of Bricksburg called Apocalypseburg.

I have to admit, I did not expect this (playfully) dark turn that provides a chance to parody a “Mad Max”-like world.

This oddly sets up a more sugary adventure for Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and the gang, leading to a new villain voiced by Tiffany Haddish.

Higher expectations are definitely an issue here, but there was also reason for them. There may be a new director at the helm in Mike Mitchell, but returning co-screenwriter Phil Lord is coming off “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” one of the best animated movies of, well, ever.

But “Lego Movie 2” sometimes struggles to recreate the magic of the original, and during its second act, it's particularly guilty of trying too hard to do so.

The all-ages appeal is still there — a colorful and playful mix for the kids with plenty of pop culture nods for parents (or, in my case, childless adults who snort-laugh over a Radiohead reference).

But most all is forgiven in a final act that brings home some of the “Toy Story” sweetness and insight that made the first “Lego Movie” so heartwarming.

Is it a bit of a letdown? Yes. But so is life, kids. Everything is still pretty awesome.

Opens Thursday

3 stars out of 5

“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”