Kicking off what promises to be a year of tentpole sequels, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part> arrives in theaters February 8, and as sequels go, almost has a nostalgic feel to it given how long ago it feels since the first movie came out. In actuality, it’s only been four years since Emmet and Wildstyle – j/k, since LEGO Batman burst onto the silver screen and stole our hearts, but it feels longer given how active Phil Lord & Christopher Miller have been developing the big screen LEGO Franchise. We’ve already gotten two “sequels” – The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the latter of which wasn't nearly as successful as the previous two. Luckily, The LEGO Movie 2 is a return to form in the best ways, capitalizing on what made the original hit so hard, as well as exploring new ideas and opportunities for character growth.
Whereas the original film's story focused on Finn’s relationship with his father, as manifested in the evil President Business and Emmet, the hopeful, but naïve Master Builder, The Second Part introduces Finn’s sister Bianca, whom their father also lets play in the basement LEGOland. The Second Part nails the combination of love and frustration that govern so many young sibling relationships, and perfectly manifests it in LEGO form as the kids spar with each other using bricks and imagination as weapons.
Finn’s previously hopeful world is now a barren, but still cheerful dystopia that references every post-apocalypse movie you’ve ever seen, from Waterworld to Escape from New York. It symbolizes both his annoyance at having his space invaded constantly by his sister and his changing interests as he grows into adolescence. Bianca’s created something far more whimsical in the Systar System, many of the elements within it speaking to her own desire to define herself and hopefully attract her brother to come play with her, a goal personalized in the franchise's two biggest new characters, Queen Watevra Wanabi (Tiffany Haddish) and her righthand lady, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz).
While Emmet and Wildstyle are still adorable, and the rest of the returning LEGO cast more than does its job of providing delightful background humor, General Mayhem and the queen are solid additions to the story, offering necessary insight into Bianca’s personality. Haddish is characteristically awesome as the impossibly sassy, shapeshifting queen, and the film generously gifts her with not one, but two of its major musical numbers. She can more than handle it, and by the end of the movie Wanabi has become one of the LEGO Universe’s most exciting creations. General Mayhem, on the other hand, is probably the least dynamic addition to the story. That’s not to say she isn’t enjoyable, but she winds up playing the straight man to everyone she interacts with, so you always find yourself splitting focus to Benny or the Justice League, or one of the many running gags speckling the film's runtime (one of which is the song played over the credits, which will have you not just staying to watch, but read).
There’s also the highly-anticipated Chris Pratt parody character Rex Dangervest… voiced by Chris Pratt. The space captain dinosaur wrangler archeologist etc. is an amalgamation of Pratt’s multiple turns in other franshises, and plays a pivotal role in Emmet’s rescue of Wildstyle after she's "captured" by General Mayhem and ferried off to the Systar System. Dangervest is good, and you'll probably laugh at him, but to be honest, he's completely upstaged by his pet raptors. In a feat of sheer magic, Dangervest's dino-team (which are all female, by the way, keeping with Jurassic Park canon) help operate his ship and keep him company. They understand English and communicate in subtitled raptor whenever they have an opinion of some significance. You will like them better than Batman -- you’ve been warned.
In all, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is a good movie and a solid sequel. There are story points that might be a little complex for some younger viewers, but by and large, it's family entertainment at its best. It recaptures the humor and innocence of the first film, all the while expanding what appears to be a limitless universe, indicating that it'll be a long time before this franchise gets stale.