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story.lead_photo.caption In The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, set five years after the events of the first film, a tough, helmet-wearing commander named General Mayhem (voice of Stephanie Beatriz) shows up in an alien spaceship to kidnaps five major characters.

It's fitting that one of the musical highlights from The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a reworking of the earlier film's "Everything Is Awesome," which indicates that maybe everything in life isn't so cheery.

It's also tempting to wonder if the new lyrics are a way the filmmakers can confess to making a cartoon that's not as consistently delightful as the one that preceded it.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

82 Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Jadon Sand, Brooklynn Prince, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Ben Schwartz, Noel Fielding, Jason Momoa, Cobie Smulders, Ike Barinholtz, Ralph Fiennes, Will Forte

Director: Mike Mitchell

Rating: PG, for some rude humor

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Screenwriters Christopher Miller and Phil Lord are back with more in-jokes and bursts of outlandish imagination, but a lot has happened in five years. The Lego version of Batman (Will Arnett) now has a terrific movie of his own, and the meta-narrative that Lord and Miller pioneered half a decade ago worked more skillfully in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which they also had a hand in writing.

Nonetheless, Chris Pratt is still delightfully amiable and obtuse as Emmet Brickowski, even if Emmet is now keenly aware that his heroics in the previous movie might have been a fluke.

Some cute but menacing creatures made from Lego's Duplo line of bricks continually attack Emmet's city, forcing residents to change the look of the place. They make their home resemble a plastic Mad Max environment in order to ward off toy hearts that explode on impact.

Emmet, as we saw in the previous movie, doesn't have much inside his hollow, round head, but he still has nightmares. He dreams that an unseen force abducts his now girlfriend Lucy aka Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman, Superman (Channing Tatum), Capt. MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Benny the spaceman (Charlie Day).

It turns out he's more of a prophet than an intellectual. An intimidating creature from another world named General Mayhem (Shephanie Beatriz) has captured his pals and has taken them to the shape-shifting Queen Whatevra Wa'Nabi (an appropriately feisty Tiffany Haddish). Her Highness is so eager to have a wedding that she has captures potential grooms and wedding guests. Apparently, both are in short supply in her world.

To rescue his pals, Emmet gets some help from the devil-may-care Rex Dangervest, whose voice sounds suspiciously like his own. Rex has an army of dinosaurs (what movie can't be improved by lots of giant lizards?) and lots of alpha male accessories that make Emmet feel as if his genial manner is wrong for the task at hand.

While Lord and Miller come up with a seemingly endless supply of clever asides, their main storyline feels flat and unformed. Because we already know the tale within a tale from the previous movie, the surprises only have a fraction of their previous impact. Apparently, fresh stories are harder to assemble than most playsets.

If inspiration is in short supply, Miller and Lord can still find plenty of sly references that might get past youngsters while amusing their parents. The new songs are catchy, even as they boast about burrowing their way into the viewer's head.

It also helps that Maya Rudolph plays the mother of the kids imagining Emmet's world. She's only in the movie for a few minutes, but she makes the most of each second. She can do more with a reaction shot than most performers can with long soliloquies. As with her turn in The Happytime Murders, here she takes base metals and spins out a little gold. It's too bad that Lord, Miller and director Mike Mitchell couldn't have given her more screen time or a really cool character made from brick.

The new film is still entertaining, but pales beside the original, which felt more like it came from the heart than a Danish toy factory.

MovieStyle on 02/08/2019

Print Headline: No. 2 doesn't try harder

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