★★★★ - THE GUARDIAN
- The second Lego Movie is even better than the original: a sophisticated new adventure that gives us a new look at how the universality of the Lego universe was more gendered than we thought. There’s hilarious voice-work artistry, ceaselessly inventive pop-culture riffs (“Ooooh – reference!” says someone), eyeball-popping graphics and a 107-minute nonstop gag-storm of a screenplay from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
My favourite moment of superfluous script brilliance comes when an intensely annoying teenage vampire announces in a sensitive voice: “I also DJ on the side and wear women’s jeans.” My only qualification is that the Lego figures are permitted a supernatural ability to operate in the live-action real world of the family’s house, which is arguably a bit of a cheat – but that’s done with great wit, like everything else.
We left the first movie on a note of existential anxiety. The kid in the real-world basement is informed that from now on his younger sister will be playing and the creatures of the Lego universe were horrified by the appearance of Duplo: great big blocks with new pinky-cutesy colours. The masculine world of Lego is threatened.
The Duplo figures are, in fact, resident in a distant spaceship and make irregular incursions that the indigenous Lego creatures consider to be hugely aggressive. After years of bitter warfare, their hometown has been grimly renamed Apocalypseburg (“a heckish place to live”), no longer is everything awesome, and the chipper singing of Emmet (tremendously voiced by Chris Pratt) is out of joint with the times. He is increasingly considered inappropriate to what Apocalypseburg needs: a tough warrior. This is especially true of Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), a badass who not so secretly despises Emmet’s inability to master stereotypically manly mannerisms.
Then the creatures of Duplo arrive with an order: Apocalypseburg’s foremost citizens must travel to the distant outpost of Sustar to attend a wedding. Their enemies’ leader Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) has imperiously announced her desire to get hitched to Apocalypseburg’s most eligible unmarried man: Batman (growlingly voiced by Will Arnett) who furiously announces that he wishes to remain a “Bat-chelor”. Is this an overture of friendship or an insidious plan to undermine our heroes’ masculine toughness and self-reliance with the girly stratagem of a wedding?
There is no doubt about it: some of the protagonists are beguiled by the avowedly feminised concept of a lavish wedding, but Emmet’s own crisis of masculinity appears solved by the appearance of tough, attractively stubbled adventurer Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), who keeps curtly telling everyone he doesn’t want to explain his backstory before doing just that.
TLM2 is speckled with references to 2001: A Space Odyssey (the “stargate” has become the “stairgate”, which leads to the disturbing world beyond the basement), to the Toy Stories and to The Matrix. The characters are periodically besieged by worries about the reality of what they experience and by their own inevitable obsolescence. They are terrified of being banished to the exotic land of “storage”, pronounced like a French word. But the structure and themes of the film have to be perceived within a pointilliste spray of brilliant gags. Each individual joke is the point; the movie keeps delivering a dizzying rush of material. What a rush.