The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Director: Mike Mitchell

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

106 mins. Rated PG for some rude humor.

 

Do you remember when Everything was Awesome back in 2014 when The Lego Movie surprised everyone by actually being great? Remember how it got completely snubbed at the Oscars causing complete and utter outcry and sadness? Remember Pepperidge Farm? I remember.

It’s been five years since Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) saved everyone by defeating the evil Lord Business on Taco Tuesday. Unfortunately for Emmet, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, The Happytime Murders), and the others, that victory only made way for the invasion of the Duplos, frightening beings from the Systar System. Now, Everything is Not Awesome, and Bricksburg has become the bleak and dark and brooding Apocalypseburg. Emmet has tried to make the best of it by staying positive, but his happiness is tested when the sinister General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz, Short Term 12, TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine) kidnaps Lucy and the others and takes to them to the Systar System to meet with Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip, Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History) for a royal wedding. Emmet has to join up with the dangerous and strong Rex Dangervest (also Pratt in a dual-role) in order to have a chance at saving them and avoiding “Our-Mom-Ageddon” in the process.

The Lego Movie 2 sets itself up nicely as a direct sequel to the original film and even a follow-up to The Lego Batman Movie, but it’s clear that this sequel is missing the boat a bit in terms of its ability to ignite fire in its story. It comes right out and states that this is set 5 years after the events of The Lego Movie, but it doesn’t feel like anything fresh has been conjured in those five years. While the events, scenarios, and overall message of this sequel, there’s just something in the film that doesn’t work as well, as though director Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, Trolls) is struggling to be Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of the previous film.

Lord and Miller have crafted the screenplay here, and that’s why the overall arc of the film works, including some of the third-act twists and turns. I was surprised at myself for not getting where the film was going as it went, and I think that upped my overall enjoyment of the film. I found the screenplay’s meta-humor broadened even more so with the original film’s revelation that the Lego world is a representation of what is happening in the real world. Lord and Miller are able to use that to craft a lot of interesting humor between the real world and the Lego world that works nicely to bridge the two films.

The voice-work is pretty solid here, especially from newcomers Haddish and Beatriz. Haddish takes a lot of the heavy lifting as Wa’Nabi, and she holds her own in several musical numbers. With their inclusion, though, I felt the loss of Benny (Charlie Day, Hotel Artemis, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman, Bad Times at the El Royale, TV’s Parks and Recreation), and Unikitty (Alison Brie, The Post, TV’s Community), who are all relegated to tertiary-level characters in the sequel.

I think it was a bad call for Warner Bros to move the release date of this sequel to accommodate The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie. It separates this sequel from its predecessor in a way that kind of hurts it for people that haven’t watched the original recently. The Lego Movie 2 is perfectly fine and, at times, brilliant, but it mostly stands in the shadow of The Lego Movie, always being fun but never rising up to the level of its predecessor. I still found myself enjoying it, but it’s a step down.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s The Lego Movie, click here.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszak, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichter, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub

Screenplay: John Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty

101 mins.  Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

 

The Ninja Turtles are back! Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!, and while they may not be the same Teenage Mutants that we knew from previous installments, and they may not be as good yet, fans who are willing to jump in and evolve with the franchise will find some thrills here.

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This year’s TMNT sees our fabled turtles meeting up with April O’Neil (Megan Fox, Transformers, This is 40) and her partner Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett, TV’s Bojack Horseman, The Lego Movie) to stop an evil corporate tycoon (William Fichter, The Dark Knight, Elysium) allied with the vicious Shredder from unleashing a fatal toxin the general public. Pretty normal fare, I know that, and it isn’t all winners, so let’s break it down.

Megan Fox is just terrible. She is the worst April O’Neil I have ever seen, and it isn’t particularly difficult as far as roles go. Luckily she has some solid help from the always wonderful Will Arnett as Vernon, the video guy that wants in April’s jumpsuit. Arnett is the absolute saving grace performer here, as he gives nods to his other likable roles (did anybody else see him make the parmesan mustard sandwich from Arrested Development?) and provides us with exactly what this picture sometimes lacked: levity.

My only other major character qualm is in the form of the ruthless Shredder, a very underdeveloped monstrosity who serves only as the “final boss” of this video game of a film. In the inevitable sequel, I want more Shredder. I want to know Shredder like I did in the live-action 90s predecessor.

The turtles are much more developed individuals, and I can see the similarities between this incarnation and the 2003 animated series. I like that we see some more fleshed out characters, the animosity and rivalry between Leonardo and Raphael, the often giggle-able Michelangelo, and the kooky and odd machine-freak Donatello.

The major win here is the effects. I know watching the trailer made my stomach churn as I imagined really badly animated turtles, but thankfully, some solid fixing up before the release made this an extravaganza.

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Well, this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t perfect by any means, but I would disagree with former Turtle performer Robbie Rist, who at one time claimed that Michael Bay was sodomizing the characters (please South Park, do not dig too deeply into this). I think that these are turtles with room to grow and develop further, and to be honest, I didn’t really find them cringe-worthy (a fear I had previously held). This movie is fun. I already hear rumblings of a sequel and I hope that the creative team is willing to take time to listen to the feedback they received for this initial outing and use it to make the second installment worthy of the TMNT moniker. For now though, I had a lot of fun at the theater, and if you see this film willing to actually give it a go, I think you will be presently surprised.

 

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Did you enjoy some ninja pizza or did your enjoyment vanish quickly without trace? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jonathan Liebesman’s Darkness Falls, click here.

The Lego Movie (2014)

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Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman

Screenplay: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

100 mins. Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

 

The Lego Movie has a simple enough premise: an ordinary everyday man (mini-figure?), Emmet (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, next year’s Jurassic World) discovers that he may actually be the Special, a Master-Builder who can save the Lego world from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell, Step Brothers, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), who plans to unleash a weapon known only as the Kragle. Joining Emmet in his quest is Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, Walk of Shame), another jealous Master,a Lego-ized Batman (Will Arnett, Despicable Me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), a cyborg pirate named Metal Beard (Nick Offerman, TV’s Parks & Recreation, 22 Jump Street), a princess unicorn/kitty (Alison Brie, TV’s Community, The Five-Year Engagement), a hyper-active astronaut (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Horrible Bosses 2), and a wizard with a prophecy (Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption, Lucy). Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Million Ways to Die in the West) is Good Cop/Bad Cop, an unhinged enforcer working for Lord Business is hot on their tails.

This movie shocked me by how much I enjoyed it. After it began raking in the big bucks, I assumed it was at least something of merit, but originally, I laughed it off. I had seen toys/board games turned into really bad movies before, and I just knew that this would be one of them. After all, do Legos have a plot? Not really. In fact, they are meant to be a tool for imagination in a lot of ways. Little did I think that this would be the resounding theme of the film.

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The breakout voice work here is from Pratt, Arnett, and Neeson. The former two for their great comedic timing, and the latter for his ability to play straight-laced with absolutely wacky. I can tell from this performance that we will see a lot more headlining from Chris Pratt in the future (and that isn’t all that much of a prediction with Guardians of the Galaxy just recently released and Jurassic World on the way for 2015).

The cinematography in this movie is astounding. Get a look at this visual perfection. The Lego-style brick animation looks very stop-motiony and mixes perfectly with the lush landscapes in a very unique way that I’ve never seen before.

The music is another major win here. This score is very mechanical and, forgive my pun, building the entire story in a way that just pumped me up for the action and mayhem still to come. Let’s not forget the song “Everything is Awesome!” I could probably spend another article just analyzing this incredible piece that not only is very catchy, but also adds an entirely new dimension to the story.

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What more can I say? The Lego Movie is absolutely astounding! From the Octan references that harken back to my childhood to the overtly meta-storytelling we could get from Writer-Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, I cannot recommend this movie enough, both for children and adults, it works on just about every level, and it just so happens to be one of the best films of the year. Look for it in the Best Animated Feature category at next year’s Oscars.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s The Lego Movie? Was Everything Awesome? Did the film just not snap together for you? Let me know!

The Nut Job (2014)

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Director: Peter Lepeniotis

Cast: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl

Screenplay: Lorne Cameron, Peter Lepeniotis

85 mins. Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

 

The Nut Job tells the tale of Surly, a squirrel who gets exiled from his city park home and plans a nut heist with his animal friends to earn his way back. That’s about it. This film is literally even more disappointing than the trailer revealed. As far as plot goes, I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, when it was called Over the Hedge. I struggled to not grab my phone and live-tweet the boredom throughout all 85 minutes.

Will Arnett (TV’s Arrested Development, The Lego Movie) is Surly, the squirrel (see, they rhyme).

The animation here is low-bar and kind of offensive to the eyes. The constant replaying of Psy’s Gangnam Style makes me hate music. The finale literally ruins the cheesy wonder of the song. Many of the characters are difficult to differentiate from one another.

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I feel like I can’t say any more about this bad bad movie except that there will likely be a sequel in two years…ugh.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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