‘Lego Movie 2’ improves on the original

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The first “LEGO Movie” was pretty great, a hilarious, visually imaginative treat of a movie. Yet “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” takes what was good about the first one and improves it by adding more emotionally resonant themes and the most entertaining character in the series so far.

While it’s not as fresh as the first movie, “The LEGO Movie 2” is a better film in almost every way.

“LEGO 2” finds protagonist Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and the rest the LEGO characters living in the midst of an apocalyptic wasteland, the lone light of positivity in a sea of gritty, broody LEGO entities. When a mysterious stranger named Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) appears out of nowhere and abducts WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks) and his other friends, Emmet takes it upon himself to embark on a rescue mission.

Things really get going when Emmet runs into Rex Dangervest (also Pratt), a super-capable, butt-kicking action movie hero with his own support crew of raptors. Together, Emmet and Rex rocket to the Systar system to save WyldStyle and the others from Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) and stave off the calamity threatening their entire universe.

“LEGO 2” continues the “LEGO Movie” story with the same kind of humor and quick wit. The jokes come fast and furious and there are so many pop culture Easter eggs, you may have trouble picking them all out in one viewing.

The film also brims with witty wordplay. The screenplay by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (based on a story by Lord, Miller and Matthew Fogle) gives Pratt a lot of meat to chew on, especially in Emmet’s scenes with Rex. The dialogue is fast and funny. Even the raptors in this movie get laughs.

One of the best products of the writing is the Rex character. A tough He-Man action hero type to the nth degree, Rex is ridiculously over the top and steals every scene he’s in. And he’s a perfect mirror for our hero, Emmet. Rex represents everything Emmet isn’t but thinks he needs to be. Rex’s presence in the story pushes Emmet to change. That’s good writing.

But the biggest improvement made to “LEGO 2” over its predecessor is the themes. The original film made a point about the importance of being yourself, even if yourself is kind of boring. “LEGO 2” presents us with a story about growing up without becoming cynical. It’s extremely resonant, to the point of draw tears in some scenes. Not big crocodile tears, but tears nonetheless.

Visually, “LEGO 2” is colorful, inventive and beautifully animated. Even after three LEGO-themed movies, the animation is still impressive. The action scenes make your eyeballs dance and the musical number bring back the visual flair of musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

“The LEGO Movie 2” isn’t as fresh or wall-to-wall funny as its predecessor. Yet it tugs harder on your emotions and teaches a lesson about remaining hopeful and positive from which even adults can benefit. If you’re looking for the perfect movie for a family outing, “The LEGO Movie 2” should top your list.

3 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

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Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.