Mad Max: Fury Road on LSD.
Once briefly a harmless jingle, inevitably becoming a near-perturbing earworm, 2014 was the year of ‘Everything Is Awesome’, thanks to the blockbusting ultra-animation, The Lego Movie. A wacko concept bound for critical dismissal defied the odds, both charming and wildly exciting, smartly written but hilariously silly. Through the success of a caped crusader’s solo outing and a not-so efficient Ninjago spin-off, we’ve arrived at the sequel, and what a joy it is.
Bricksburg’s time as a utopia is short-lived, after Duplo aliens invade, turning their happy world into a wasteland, aptly named Apocalypseburg. Amidst the turmoil and raised survival instincts is Emmet (Chris Pratt), an optimistic spirit planning out his life with Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) in a place ravaged of hope. However, when General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) kidnap the residents, Emmet is forced to buck up his courage, with the assistance of hero-figure, Rex Dangervest (also Pratt).
Lucy, Batman (Will Arnett on predictably brilliant form) and others are taken to the Systar System, where an impending marriage awaits them. The thing that really made the first film work was the fact it was high-concept animation; both visual entertainment and a heartwarming tale for families, a reminder to adults particularly that they were kids once, and as such, they should have some compassion to kids. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have penned both scripts, very much continue this theme, this time moving on to a brother and sister’s tenuous relationship when it comes to toys.
Whilst in the mix of all the brick-building tomfoolery and dimension-transitions, you never lose sight of where you are or struggle to comprehend the rules of the feature. It’s only when you walk out and try and explain it, you’ll find yourself bumbling around some convoluted explanation. That in itself is a remarkable achievement; doing something narratively bold and keeping in line with a solid message. The lesson this time round isn’t quite as punchy in the emotional department (although it is drawn out in a much different way than the first’s climactic turn), but as you’d expect from Lord and Miller, the jokes are better, thicker and faster.
The gags are amazingly varied and seemingly endless. From a vision of the Statue of Liberty à la Planet of the Apes, to Batman referring to his own three movies in production, to a knock at the earlier film’s female representation, to a wide cast of terrific cameos – Velma, Aquaman, Bruce Willis and, wait for it, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s a film that embodies the challenge of make believe and all the strange, imaginative set-pieces that can conjure. Only a small number of the jokes don’t land – Haddish’s villainous royal especially struggles to merge with the rest of the ensemble. But, similarly to the original, the self-referential, uber-meta jabs take form in both zingers and the fabulous, poppy soundtrack. Bringing together a range of artists, including the eagerly-awaited return of The Lonely Island, The Second Part has its very own memorable tune, appropriately named ‘Catchy Song’, with a central, recurring lyric: “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head!” There’s also the best super-sad twist on a cheery song since Team America.
While Lord and Miller cheekily dissect Hollywood tropes both on and off screen, Mark Mothersbaugh (best known for Trolls) helms the film with a confident hand, helping to orchestrate dazzling, kaleidoscopic action sequences alongside his talented animators. The densely realised visuals are completely bonkers and surreal, but that’s the point isn’t it? The Lego series is an advancement of something as rudimentary as building a tall tower of bricks, an ode to the wonder of the creative side of the brain. And here, among the demented, nonsensically gleeful offerings is Pratt doing a fantastic Kurt Russell impression, skateboarding dinosaurs and Super Mario star-bombs. Name another kids film that riffs on Mad Max: Fury Road and homages 2001: A Space Odyssey while producing something entertaining for the whole family (but particularly the adults).
A surrealist, pop culture tornado that whirls you up and spits you out in a state of post-playtime delirium.
Cameron Frew – @FrewFilm