Everything is not awesome in ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’

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Grade: 3.0/5.0

A sequel to 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” is probably one of the darkest children’s movies made in recent years — as characters state throughout the film, “everything’s not awesome.” From start to finish, the characters we knew from the first “Lego Movie” become edgier and more brooding than we’ve ever seen them before.

The darker elements of the film ultimately come together in support of some major central messages: Rebuilding a community is possible after turmoil and growing up kind of sucks, but positive feelings like love and unity can help you overcome any obstacle. This is only clarified, however, after a steaming heap of existential dread and apocalyptic bleakness.

The animation style is top notch, as one would expect from a Warner Bros. production, but it’s unclear who “The Second Part” is really trying to appeal to. It’s not uncommon for movies marketed toward families to sneak in more adult humor to ease parents’ viewing pleasures, but the jokes are simply too dark for children to connect with, while the absurdity is still a little too immature for general audiences looking to unwind with a comforting family film.

For example, if you are looking to see one of the most unsettling scenes in an animated children’s film, look no further than the film’s signature musical number “Everything’s Not Awesome.” This twist on the peppy Tegan & Sara hit that became a signature earworm in 2014 is, without spoiling the film as a whole, a strange combination of humor and utter depressing chaos.

Along with “Everything’s Not Awesome,” another new song was introduced to the franchise, and it’s expectedly just as annoying as the others. “Catchy Song” is basically a repeat of the words “this song’s gonna get stuck inside your head” until you simply cannot stand listening to it. Strangely enough, T-Pain is a featured artist on the track, even though it sounds nothing like anything he’s produced before and you can’t really hear his voice anyways.

One of the most redeeming qualities of this film is the engaging variety of voice actors present, with Chris Pratt as Emmet, Elizabeth Banks as Lucy, Will Arnett as Batman and Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, each adding unique elements to their respective performances. A highlight of the film is definitely witnessing some voice actors playing Lego versions of characters they’ve played in live-action films, such as Jason Momoa’s performance as Aquaman, an entertaining follow-up to his performance in the DC Comics film last year.

The plot of the movie jumps from subject to subject quite often, to an almost distracting result. One moment the poor Lego characters are getting invaded by cuddly, alien-like creatures and the next they’re transported into a chaotic, apocalyptic nightmare of a landscape called “Apocalypseburg.”

The film is a clever combination of animated and live-action stories, featuring live appearances by high-profile celebrities Maya Rudolph and Will Ferrell. Rudolph and Ferrell play the parents of two siblings whose familial conflict gets translated into their Lego playtime. The two children ultimately control all of the disasters happening throughout the movie, and many of the references made in the Lego universe like the “systar system” subtly combine the two worlds without them being aware of each other.

The “Lego Movie” franchise is easily one of the most self-aware film series out there. In a key moment that demonstrates this in “The Second Part,” the characters joke about how the “Everything Is Awesome” track from the original film “never gets old,” even though every viewer that has been watching since 2014 would, hopefully, disagree.

And yet despite the strength of its self-awareness and often deprecating sense of humor, at some points, the bit simply becomes tiring. When the characters introduce a musical number by questioning if a song and dance sequence is about to break out — a trick that is used more than once — the humor becomes repetitive and ultimately falls flat. At one point a character introduces a contraption to solve a major problem, what the Lego character literally calls a CPD, or “convenient plot device.” This mature recognition of absurdity takes away from the curious, childlike essence that should be at the heart of the film.

So with its latest venture, the “Lego Movie” series wants viewers to know the world isn’t actually awesome, a stark contrast to the all too positive message that was so fervently pushed in the first film. Unfortunately, “The Second Part” isn’t exactly awesome either, considering most people under the age of 12 won’t pick up on the sheer volume of dark humor that makes up its entirety. While it’s nice to have an animated film geared toward an older audience every once in a while, let’s save the Legos for the kids — and from heavy existentialism.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.