By Thomas Petch
There are three types of children’s movies. The cheap and easy ones, about a talking rabbit or a magic child or are based on some terrible pun (Gnomeo and Juliet) that takes the characters on an adventure designed to teach kids an obvious lesson.
Then there are the sequels and reboots, or the adaptions of old children’s books made to cash in on nostalgia with little substance.
Finally, there are the rarer breeds, produced with style, purpose and enough genuine material and heart to become a film that stays with a child until they’ve grown up (Toy Story anyone?).
Surprisingly, 2014s The Lego Movie, dismissed by many as simply a feature-length toy commercial, managed to become the latter by telling a heart-warming story about a father and son struggling to communicate through the prism of a fantastical story made entirely out of Lego.
This led to one good spin-off (The Lego Batman Movie), one mediocre spin-off (The Lego Ninjago Movie) and a whole bunch of terrible copycats like The Emoji Movie with others in the works like Barbie and Playmobile. Five years later, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part has come to try and recapture the magic of the first. Does it succeed? The answer is more complicated than you might expect.
The first one, created by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, succeeded by using Emmett (Chris Pratt) and Lord Business (Will Ferrell) as the classic hero and villain archetypes; a parallel for the father and his son, Finn, playing with these toys in the ‘real world’.
Miller and Lord have made a career out of subverting expectations, which provided genuinely funny commentary on society in a way that appeals to the young and old. Mike Mitchell attempts to recreate many of these elements, yet doesn’t carry them out with the same nuanced subtlety that Miller and Lord possess.
The sequel picks up where immediately and spends the first few minutes establishing how the “Duplo aliens” kept destroying everything the heroes built: this is where the issues start.
The opening sequence implies that these aliens are the mirror of Finn’s sister. However, into the run time, this becomes less clear cut and begins to blur the lines of what is part of the children’s imagination and what isn’t. Often hard to follow and far too convoluted, this plot device lessens the emotional impact of the end, which was captured beautifully in the first outing.
Overplayed meta throwaway lines, elements of time travel and a “big reveal” that seemingly breaks the logic of the film, all serve to constantly remind us of how great it’s predecessor was.
The Second Part does excel in is its visual style, as seeing each set piece made from Lego bricks is incredibly entertaining. It also manages to be genuinely funny, with only a handful of jokes and musical numbers coming across forced.
Whilst this film isn’t as well assembled as the first entry it still manages to be an entertaining ride in its own right that children will still enjoy.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is in cinemas now and at Macrobert Arts Centre until Sunday 24 February.