WASHINGTON — In one of the most “awesome” surprises in recent Hollywood memory, “The Lego Movie” overcame its potential product placement pitfalls to deliver a fresh, hilarious, animated pop-culture romp that became one of the Top 5 highest-grossing movies of 2014.
It was only a matter of time before sequels followed, including this weekend’s release of “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” a misleading title since it’s actually the fourth installment of the franchise after “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017) and “The Lego Ninjago Movie” (2017).
Visionary creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to write the script for Warner Bros. in a welcome career rebound attempt after infamously being replaced by Ron Howard mid-production on Disney’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018) due to reported creative differences.
It’s only fitting that their new animated plot involves space invaders threatening to wreck Lego Land. Set five years after the events of the first film, optimistic construction worker Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) endures a somber shift from Bricksburg to Apocalypseburg upon an alien invasion. When loved ones Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Benny (Charlie Day) and Unikitty (Alison Brie) are taken hostage for an intergalactic wedding, Emmet sets out to rescue them with the help of his brash new sidekick Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt).
Pratt’s double voicing duty is a chance for him to mock himself with juicy self-deprecation. Each time Rex opens his mouth, a graphic interstitial pops up on screen like a flashy action figure commercial heralding him as a “galaxy-defending cowboy and raptor trainer,” cleverly spoofing his roles in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “Jurassic World.”
Still, the real show-stealer remains Arnett’s Batman, who is so dunce and brooding that it’s impossible not to laugh. “They’ve made roughly nine movies about me,” he brags, referencing his Adam West tights, George Clooney charm and Val Kilmer lips. Much of the humor lies in his shameless moral malleability, changing opinions about himself in hilariously pathetic attempts to woo the disingenuous alien villain Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish).
Haddish’s shape-shifting seductress is the best part of the movie, mixing the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland” (1951), Kaa from “The Jungle Book” (1967), Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” (1989) and Tamatoa from “Moana” (2016). Here she belts two sneaky numbers, one proclaiming all the ways that she is not evil (even though we know she is) and another about her affection for the Man of Steel (even though she’s just trying to make Batman