Everything’s Still Awesome

‘The Lego Movie 2’ builds on the success of the original with more humorous pop culture-drenched adventure.

Batman is wearing a white bat-helmet, his costume dotted with sparkles that set off his fabulous ermine cape. I think at this point there is no question that the Batman from the Lego movies has eclipsed the Dark and Brooding™ Batman of Warner Brothers’ DC film cycle. No wonder Ben Affleck is opting out of the live-action role; he can’t compete with this. As voiced by Will Arnett, the Lego Batman is vain, dimwitted, and very nearly a complete parody of the Dark Knight. It’s the closest thing we’ve come to Adam West’s great TV Batman from the ’60s, and this is a good thing.

Batman has the bling on because he’s dressed up for an outer-space wedding, which is merely one of a thousand points of light in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, a sequel to the 2014 hit. The new one ingeniously flips the “Everything Is Awesome” scenario of the first movie: Now we’re in a post-apocalyptic world, and the only cheerful citizen is Emmet (Chris Pratt), the sunny hero from the first film. For its first 20 minutes or so, the movie consists of a gleeful string of jokes aimed at the self-important posing of the DC superhero movies and other dark-hued multiplex flicks (if you’ve wondered what a Mad Max film would look like in Legos, your prayers are answered here).

Eventually screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller take their characters to another planet, where a shape-shifting ruler named Watevra (Tiffany Haddish, making a meal of the role) seeks a husband. Watevra gets a showstopping song in the manner of a Disney evil queen, in which she insists she is “the most least evil person you’ll ever see.” This all comes amid a torrent of pop-culture references. Every actor who ever played Batman gets name-checked (including West), and we also nod toward the glittery vampires from Twilight, dinosaurs whose dialogue is subtitled, and—inescapably—Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There’s also a cameo from Gary Payton, wearing his Sonics uniform, for reasons that are obscure and yet need no justification.

Sneakily, The Lego Movie 2 has a message. Everybody keeps telling Emmet he needs to be tougher and harder, especially his studly alter ego Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt); if only Emmet would emulate action-movie heroes and maybe grow a gritty three-day chin stubble, he’d win more. Lord and Miller make fun of macho clichés to demolish the myth of the alpha male. It helps that Emmet’s surrounded by warrior women, including his pal Lucy, aka Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Unikitty (Alison Brie), and newcomer General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz).

If the sequel doesn’t have the nonstop zing of the first movie, it’s still the kind of thing that makes you grin from beginning to end. And do stay for the end: There’s an instant-classic end-credits song (performed by Beck, Robyn, and The Lonely Island) about end credits, including vocal shout-outs to obscure technical departments. It’s exactly in the spirit of Lord and Miller’s exuberantly self-conscious fun.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Opens Friday, February 8 | Rated PG