I go into every film, as much as I can, with an open mind. Even if critical reception is poor, I like to stay hopeful that a film will surprise me. I’ll allow myself the joy of the hype cycle and trailers for exciting movies, even if that means being let down in the end. But, generally, once the trailers are over and the lights go down, I try to start with a clean slate.
With The Lego Movie 2, I failed at that, and it didn’t even have anything to do with Lego, the first Lego Movie, sequel-fatigue, or any other obvious reason.
Wreck-it Ralph. Or, more specifically, Ralph Breaks the Internet.
See, the last time I saw an animated family film like this it was Ralph Breaks the Internet. I adored the original Wreck-it Ralph, but Ralph Breaks the Internet was a huge let-down because it retread the same ground. It worked overtime to make Ralph a deeply unlikable character so that there was some new conflict, all the while basking uncritically in a sea of corporate logos and fun capitalist concepts like, “I have no value or purpose if I don’t have a job.” It was very bad.
That disappointment left a mark that followed me all the way to a screening of The Lego Movie 2 over a month later, and I didn’t even notice until the film started.
The Lego Movie 2 begins right where the previous film left off, with the reveal that Emmet and co. are all part of a fictional world created by a boy in his basement, and that he must now share playtime with his little sister. The sibling invasion manifests in Lego world as an alien invasion resulting in a post-apocalypse, where Emmet’s oblivious optimism no longer fits. In these early scenes the film pushes this theme that Emmet must change to survive, and so he resolves to become tougher and more serious.
It seems obvious in hindsight that the unstoppable writing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller would handle this concept with deft hands, but at the time all I could think of was Ralph Breaks the Internet. Where was this going? Was I getting another uninspired rehash with another unwelcome sprinkling of corporate capitalist messaging?
I spent a solid 20 minutes dreading that I’d walked into another disaster. It doesn’t help that The Lego Movie 2 takes a little bit to get going. Not to mention that it doesn’t really show its cards until the very end. But eventually, my hesitation softened in the face of an overwhelming assault of fun ideas, great songs, and hilarious jokes. Ralph – 0, Emmet – 1.
If this all reads like a roundabout way to talk about how great The Lego Movie 2 is without spoiling it all, then mission accomplished. In a world where sequels are a forgone conclusion and bullshit like Ralph Breaks the Internet gets to exist, this was a refreshingly valuable, vibrant, and thematically poignant follow-up to the original Lego Movie. Go see it.