On Sunday I went to see The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part by myself. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much money kids movies make - but not when you’re in a movie theater. Families see a LOT of movies and for a second I thought the theater was gonna be fairly empty since the movie’s been out for just over a month. I was wrong. Surrounded mostly by kids and parents I settled in for yet another amazing Lego visual explosion.
I remember when I saw The Lego Batman Movie with my old roommate in theaters and we looked at each after the lengthy opening action sequence, eyes bugging out of our heads, and said some variation of “jesus fucking christ that was intense” at the same time. The Lego movies are beautiful, colorful, action-packed explosions that are still easy to follow despite incredible visual complexity.
What the movies also often have are surprisingly intelligent and mature themes about life, society, relationships, and humanity. Themes that, while watered down by the fact that the movies are still just one big commercial for Lego, instill important values in the kids watching them. The two that most capture that thematic quality are The Lego Movie and now The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. The sequel doesn’t go the same route as the first - there’s little commentary on big corporations or manufactured happiness - but there are some positive themes on what it means to be a person among people.
The villain in The Lego Movie 2 is the collection of Lego toys introduced by the off screen protagonist’s younger sister. We see a lot more real life family interaction during this movie now that the surprise of the first one has already been revealed. The younger sister’s toys are deadly cute hearts and pastel alien ships all of which destroy the Lego world the brother has built. In the Lego world we see the sister’s toys being invulnerable to anything our Lego friends (still lead by Emmet Brickowski) throw at them, we see them smashing buildings and destroying the city. In the real world we see the sister bouncing her toys around haphazardly among her older brother’s meticulously created Lego world.
After the sister’s toys have kidnapped some of Emmet’s friends for a Lego marriage between Batman and the alien Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (whatever I wanna be) he goes on a dangerous mission to save them to the Systar system (the sister system - honestly the corny names never get old). His space ship crashes and everything seems lost until the rugged hero willing to do whatever it takes appears - Rex Dangervest! If it isn’t obvious from the same voice actor (Chris Pratt) we quickly learn he is the future version of Emmet who traveled back in time to save himself. In Rex’s timeline he crashed and was left to ponder eternity under the dryer in the family’s basement where all toys go to die in suburban America.
Everything is set up to stop the evil villains - Rex explains to Emmet that his friends are brainwashed and that he needs to act quickly to stop the evil alien queen. They have a plan and it’s going to work. However we quickly learn, unsurprisingly, that all is not what it seems. Rex becomes increasingly overbearing and aggressive, his loner dialogue slowly pivots him to show his true colors as a macho edge lord. We learn that the sister wasn’t actually trying to destroy anything, that she’s just been desperately trying to play with her older brother for years in the only way a small child knows how - by inserting herself into his life.
The Lego Movie 2 doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. The first one came seemingly out of nowhere and had a lot to love, and the sequel doesn’t change much on that formula, losing its groundbreaking-feeling in the process. What it DOES have, and what caused me to cry throughout the end of the movie, is that quintessential kids movie feeling of trying. The subtle lessons for boys everywhere on how to be a good person - that it’s good to play with your sister, that it’s cool to have your Batman wear sequins, that doing things alone all the time is unhealthy - is still very needed in a world full of toxic masculinity. The additional message tied in with that, Everything’s Not Awesome (an altered version of the first movie’s main song), reminds us all that it’s ok for life to be bad sometimes but that trying to make life great is always important. The message is: try to be better. Being a good person requires real effort. It requires changing.
At the end of the movie, tears streaming down my face, my main concern was that the parents in the theater didn’t think I was some weirdo adult at a kids movie - luckily, though, the theater was so cold that I had my coat on and my hood up. My hood blocked the view of my face from most people and also made a warmer (literally) and more intimate experience of the movie. The messages aren’t all that deep, and they come wrapped in the latest Lego toys, but that sense of trying and improving is striking at the end. I’m also a sucker for crying at the movies, but I view that positively. Sometimes that simple emotional tipping point is all you need to make a decision in your life or to accept something difficult.