The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Michael O’Sullivan’s review of “The Lego Movie 2,” click here.
Growing up is a tough gig. Everything about how you relate to the world changes when you’re an adult — you’re the one who has to shove your hand down the kitchen sink to clean out the gunk, good socks start to sound like an awesome gift and throwing a temper tantrum has little effect other than shutting down the federal government. There’s also the emotional cost to pay: Crying less. Hugging less. Playing less. Worrying more.
In “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” the characters we met in the 2014 original have returned, though to much more adult circumstances. The bricky bunch have lost their colorful Bricksburg home and now reside in Apocalypseburg, described by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) as “a heckish place to live.” According to Wyldstyle, the ever-optimistic Emmet (Chris Pratt) needs to toughen up to survive in this beige new world, which is under constant threat of invasion from the baby-voiced, glitter-puking aliens from Planet Duplo. When invading General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) nabs Wyldstyle and the rest of the core gang, only Emmet is left to save the day — and the world, which is on the brink of a mysterious event called Armomageddon.
As Emmet sets off on his rescue mission, he teams up with Rex Dangervest (also Pratt, playing Rex as the Star-Lord to Emmet’s Andy Dwyer), an ultramasculine space cowboy who pilots a ship crewed by raptors. Rex too says that Emmet needs to wise up and harden his heart, because that’s what it’s going to take to save his friends. And Emmet listens.
We all know where “The Lego Movie 2: Lego Boogaloo” is going with this, right? Of course Emmet will come to realize that his sweetness is his strength, and that his optimism is a light that others can follow. But “The Lego Movie 2: Revenge of the Lego” adds depth through Wyldstyle’s own journey. Even before her arrival on the relentlessly perky Duplo (a tune called “Catchy Song” plays repeatedly there. The hook is “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head.” I assure you it will.), she’s already suppressed nearly everything fun and frivolous (and, let’s admit it, feminine) about herself because, to be a grown-up, you have to be taken seriously. She resists the pink and fluffy and bouncy pop fun because she has a job to do, and there’s no room for glitter on an important quest.
Watching Emmet’s sweetness get replaced by the hypermasculinity Rex embodies — defined by isolation, punching and an affinity for “The Matrix” — is an important part of “The Lego Movie 2: The Lego Strikes Back,” but in Wyldstyle we see someone who’s already made that transition. At one point there’s a revelation about her past and someone gasps, “Are you secretly CUTESY?!” — a charge she vehemently denies.
In coming-of-age stories, “coming of age” usually means toughening up, losing some fun, cleaning out kitchen sink gunk — moving from Emmet to Rex. “The Lego Movie 2: The Lego-eckoning” is about how growing up can (and possibly should) mean the opposite. Instead of being defined by emotional restraint with a heavy dose of stoicism, adulthood can be about being more open and vulnerable, about being firmly on the side of hope and about being unashamed of finding the color in a beige-bricked world. And then maybe adding some glitter.