I guess it must be me, because while the general box office and critical reception of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) has been pretty much favorable, I didn’t like it. This in spite of a terrific cast starring with Chris Pratt who’s good in everything I’ve seen him in.
Yes, I know the movie is a parody on just about everything, and is meant to describe family relationships, particularly between older brother and younger sister, but I’m not sure the focus was there and it seemed jumbled, confusing, and sometimes insulting.
Since it’s still out in the theaters and you might not have seen it, I may end up dropping some spoilers you won’t appreciate, so you’ve been warned. I must also confess that although I have seen The Lego Batman Movie (2017) exactly once, I haven’t seen any other the other Lego films, so I don’t have any familiarity with the characters or the general universe.
Yesterday, my wife suggested that my two sons and I take my grandson (he just turned ten) to the movies. We had a choice of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the aforementioned Lego movie, and Alita: Battle Angel. My son (grandson’s Dad) felt Alita might be a bit too “mature” for my grandson, so that just left Spider-Man (which we’ve seen before but it’s terrific) and Lego. My grandson chose the Lego film because he hadn’t seen it yet. That’s how I ended up seeing it (which I normally wouldn’t).
It’s a confusing movie until you realize that one Lego world represents the teenage boy Finn (Jadon Sand) and the other his pre-teen sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) and how each of their imaginations, based on gender (I’m getting to that) and age would lead them in different directions. In fact, the entire movie is a metaphorical representation of their older brother/younger sister relationship.
I know this one pretty well from watching my grandson and his 3 1/2-year-old sister interact. Yes, she wants do to everything he does and she idolizes him, and that annoys him to no end, even though he really does love her and takes good care of her.
So Bianca’s Duplo world (with some of Finn’s Legos) tries to interact and intermingle with Finn’s with predictable results. In the “Lego world,” that leads Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), the (apparently) self-styled warrior woman (with a secret gooey, colorful past) to defend Finn’s dystopian Lego world against his sister’s super colorful, overly cheerful, “awesome” world. Her friend Emmet (Chris Pratt) is so cheerful, loving, and innocent, that he not only is instantly annoying, but given the threat Lucy perceives, is totally unhelpful. She’s always wanting him to be tougher, which is what causes the problems in this movie.
The “alien” assaults (from Bianca) have subsided after five years, but then General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) comes to invite (kidnap) a number of the denizens of Finn’s world to a royal wedding, including Batman (Will Arnett) and Lucy. It’s up to Emmet to go after them and rescue Lucy by going up the stairs (Finn’s Lego world is in the basement and Bianca’s is upstairs in her room).
He doesn’t make it, or almost until rescued by Rex Dangervest (also Pratt), who is a parody of every character Pratt has ever played including Star-Lord from “Guardian’s of the Galaxy” and Owen Grady from “Jurassic World.” In other words, a manly man with the beard stubble to prove it. He has a giant spaceship shaped like a fist and crewed by intelligent velociraptors, which is totally cool.
Meanwhile, in Bianca’s world, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) is wooing Batman and he eventually succumbs, agreeing to marry the Queen, which will fuse their two worlds, but no one is sure if the result will be benign or sinister. Also, there’s a disaster that Emmet has foretold called Armamageddon which this wedding will either trigger or prevent.
As it all turns out, Rex is really Emmet from the future, a version of himself who is, as Lucy thought she wanted, tough as nails and is going to resist a peaceful remaking of the two universes with everything he’s got (sort of how Finn feels about introducing a bunch of cheerful, colorful characters we’d expect from a ‘tween’ girl into his “toxic masculinity” Lego universe).
Battle ensues, all seems lost, the wedding has been foiled, and in the real world, Armamageddon means Mom tells both Finn and Bianca to box up all of their Legos/Duplos permanently because they’re fighting too much (really Finn’s fault), and that’s the end of the movie.
But in true schmaltzy fashion, Lucy, already boxed up, refuses to give up, gets in touch with her former “awesome” colorful, pop song singing self, and rallies the Legos/Duplos, managing to rescue Emmet from his “evil” Rex self (the whole time travel thing is confusing, and borrows from practically everything).
Eventually, Rex sees the evil of his ways, and because this transaction has permanently changed Emmet, he’ll never become Rex, so Rex fades away “Back to the Future” style. Emmet is still sweet and lovable, but a little more mature, Lucy is still relatively tough (coming from Finn’s world), but is in touch with her softer side, the wedding between Batman and Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi goes on, and Finn breaks out the Legos/Duplos and makes the giant pink wedding cake with Bianca.
On one level, the whole movie is about teaching older brothers and younger sisters to get along. Okay, I get that, but it never ends as perfectly as the movie suggested (at least until they both get to be teens or young adults when the age difference matters less).
On another level, this is another Hollywood toxic masculinity vs. feminist encounter, although oddly enough, male and female are presented in totally stereotypical style (how many feminists would admit to cute, fluffy, unicorn, kitty, pony symbolism?).
Mom (Maya Rudolph) is the authoritarian in the family while Dad (Will Ferrell) is the almost totally absent and absolutely ineffectual, clueless Dad (really, he even makes Emmet seem useful and manly).
This is the confusing part since the movie does have a good moral to deliver, but at the same time, like Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018), males are shown as either toxic evil or totally ineffectual with a few brief moments of being “okay,” but only if they don’t show even a hint of testosterone.
I know Hollywood is fighting back against decades of super-masculine men rescuing totally helpless, ineffectual women, but is just flipping the stereotype the answer? Okay, this movie isn’t a total flip, but if you consider Lucy part of the “toxic masculinity” universe, then even “strong women” are strong for the wrong reason.
What would have been more realistic and not such a nod to misandry? A more realistic view of Finn and Bianca. Yes, I think it is good to show them cooperating on a mutual Lego/Duplo world, but consider, at the end of the movie, just about everything was pink, “pop songy,” and “awesome.” I think it’s important to also say it’s okay for Finn to be older, male, and have different interests than his sister and still not be considered “evil.” It would also have been nice to not so blatantly say that Dads are clueless, ineffectual, and distant from their children. Frankly, it’s perfect for Ferrell who (sorry to say) I’ve never liked in any role he’s played.
I mean, Hollywood really has a dim view of Dads lately because “social justice” says so. I’d like to see that change but I hold the minority opinion.
Oh, irony of ironies, when we got back from the movies, my granddaughter was watching The Incredibles (2004), which I not only consider one of the best animated action films of all time, but a movie that totally understands family dynamics. Yes, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) struggles with his role of husband and Dad after losing his “job” as a superhero, but Helen (Holly Hunter) is no “damsel in distress” and the movie did show individuals and families growing together without, metaphorically speaking, having the film wipe the dog doo-doo on the bottom of its shoe on Dad’s face.
If I want to see a well executed “children’s” movie about family dynamics, I’ll skip the “Lego 2” movie entirely and always choose “The Incredibles,” keeping in mind, I haven’t had a chance to view Incredibles 2 (2018) yet.
Oh, and “toxic” as I am, I really thought Rex’s velociraptor run spaceship was totally cool.