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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Review: ‘The Lego Movie 2’ could be definitive piece of cinema for the Trump era

Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pratt voice Lucy and Emmet in “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.” (Warner Bros. Pictures / TNS)
By Katie Walsh Tribune News Service

Even silly movies about Lego bricks are not immune from the shifting sands of time and a turbulent cultural climate. In 2015, the song was “Everything Is Awesome,” but in 2019, the chorus goes, “Everything Is Not Awesome.” As the meme-creators might say, “Big Mood.” That’s not to say that “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” falters in any way. But rather that the sequel to Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s “The Lego Movie” manages to keep up with the times, which is pretty impressive for an animated film about toys in space.

The sequel may not be as fresh and surprising as the original “Lego Movie,” which burst onto the scene with far more smarts and pizazz than any film based on a set of building blocks should. The success spawned “The Lego Batman Movie” – one of the best Batman movies of all time – and “The Lego Ninjago Movie” – the weakest of the franchise but nevertheless entertaining. With “Lego Movie 2,” we know the drill. We expect the catchy tunes and the ruthless roasting of the Justice League. We know the jokes will be dense and tropes will be parodied. And yet, writers Lord and Miller, with director Mike Mitchell, actually make a film that could be a definitive piece of cinema for the Trump era. Yes. About Legos.

Think of “Lego Movie 2” as the “Empire Strikes Back” to “The Lego Movie’s” “A New Hope.” It bears the comparison as the sequel is an epic space opera, with characters exploring the galaxies far, far away from Bricksburg, which is now Apocalypseburg. It’s been a long few years for Emmett (Chris Pratt) and the gang, who have gone full “Mad Max” during a war with a baby-voiced alien race made of Duplo blocks who have decimated the landscape with cutesy heart bombs.

Warner Bros. Pictures / YouTube

When his pals, including Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Batman (Will Arnett) et al, are abducted onto a spaceship by a mysterious, masked general (Stephanie Beatriz), the sweet, cheery Emmett has to dig deep and go after them, venturing into the far reaches of the Sistar System. He runs into a scruffy, manly hero-type, Rex Dangervest (Pratt). The character is a direct satire of Pratt’s action hero roles (he rides with a crew of velociraptors), and Rex helps Emmett harness his inner stud via toxic masculinity.

It’s pretty astonishing to consider what “The Lego Movie 2” accomplishes. As expected, it’s a hilarious sendup of and tribute to all of the properties in the Warner Bros. stable, including “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” and all the DC comics characters. It introduces new characters, including the memorably shape-shifting alien Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). But most impressively, it is a sly, subversive and decidedly pointed argument against xenophobia that asks, can’t we all just get along?

The “Lego” movies exist inside a real-world universe. These fantastical outer-space realms are dreamed up by Finn (Jadon Sand), and now, his sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). When the realms clash, it’s because Finn and his sister are clashing. But the film makes the powerful point that those who are new and different, those who arrive with outstretched arms come in peace and love. We reject and lash out at these newcomers at our own peril. Although it’s packaged in a wild, neon-bright, irreverent movie about toy bricks, it’s a moral that resonates deeply.