Since the original in 2014, The LEGO films have always been delightfully self-aware. They seem to have a knack for knowing exactly what audiences are thinking, even if it’s a criticism, and immediately make a joke about it. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part knows its greatest flaws, including not being quite as good as its predecessor. 

What starts as a humorous romp with a predictable and somewhat uninspired plot shifts around halfway through. The film still maintains the same whimsical energy but adds some genuinely surprising twists and a positive message, even if it isn’t all that challenging or revelatory. Despite common sequelitis symptoms, The LEGO Movie 2 is nevertheless a fun and engaging adventure that builds upon the rules and characters of the original.

Picking up exactly where the previous film left off in “the real world,” Finn (Jadon Sand) and his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) are now allowed to play with their father’s (Will Ferrell) LEGOs. However, Bianca quickly destroys and steals Finn’s creations, incorporating the larger and more kid-friendly Duplo LEGOs into his set. The live-action parts of the story are among the least interesting parts of the film, although they rarely linger too long.

However, those segments provide context for the myriad references to real-world celebrities and licensed characters, unceasingly energetic characters and the endearingly childish dialogue. Although the film certainly loses the surprise of a wider meta-narrative when the live-action segment was revealed at the end of the first movie, it attempts to compensate for this by building upon its premise. Now there are two real-world forces, both attempting to affect the LEGO narrative and often butting heads. And the film expands upon the LEGO characters’ self-awareness and even Toy Story-like autonomy in increasingly interesting ways.

Affected by events of the real world, the LEGO story quickly jumps to five years in the future. There, Bricksburg has now become a Mad Max parody, aptly named Apocalypseburg. Everyone but the incurably positive Emmet (Chris Pratt) receives a new, child-friendly edginess to coincide with Finn’s transition into adolescence, including Emmet’s now-girlfriend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). 

Soon enough, Emmet’s friends are abducted by a helmeted figure known as General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz). Taken to the Systar System (Bianca’s room), Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) arranges a marriage with Batman (Will Arnett) in a thinly veiled benign attempt to unify their two worlds. Losing the morale of Apocalypseburg’s denizens, Emmet decides to pursue Lucy, Batman and the rest of his friends alone. He meets the heroic Rex Dangervest (Pratt), a parody of Pratt’s past performances, along the way and becomes his pupil.

The LEGO Movie 2 is highly selective with which characters it develops. Among the core trio, Emmet and Lucy both learn a great deal about themselves, with Emmet attempting to mature and Lucy confronting her past from when she used to be positive and energetic. This leaves Batman, whose delightful self-awareness, references and hammy edginess steals the show for the third time, yet sadly does nothing to further the character in a meaningful way.

Instead, much of this time is spent on the new characters, to varying success. Queen Wa’Nabi unfortunately does little more than further the plot as an obvious villain with unknown motivations. Rex has equally unknown motives, but Pratt’s performance shifting between the naive Emmett and grizzled Rex is undeniably fun to watch and hear. At a certain defining moment partway through the movie, these two characters’ place in the story click together — so to speak — but not in a way that will leave all audiences satisfied.

With any LEGO movie, there are two main factors drawing in audiences: Goofy, offbeat humor and stunning creativity using animated LEGO bricks. Both are in full force for The LEGO Movie 2. Most of the characters, even Emmett, have become full-fledged Master Builders, meaning they can rapidly construct new LEGO inventions to get themselves out of tight situations. As part of Emmett’s training from Rex, he learns how to become a Master Breaker, deconstructing any LEGO structure with a light, comical tap. This opens up even more opportunities for creativity in inventions. Although the animation is still stunning, particularly in the Systar System, there aren’t quite as many jaw-dropping moments as there were in the original, and the animation technology seems to be more-or-less the same.

As always, The LEGO Movie 2 likely sets records for the speed in which it sets up, delivers and abandons a joke. LEGO movies are endlessly rewatchable precisely for this reason, with its nonsensical and rapid-fire humor perfectly encapsulating the silliness and unbounded energy of a child.

The LEGO Movie 2 features a few reprisals of old tunes, licensed music and a handful of original songs by Queen Wa’Nabi. They are undeniably catchy, but little more. “Oh no, are we in a musical?” Batman wonders aloud in dismay. (Despite this, one of the funniest moments of the entire film is an original rap by Batman). There are also two new reprisals of the overly optimistic “Everything is Awesome,” one of which is surprisingly melancholy yet uplifting. And staying for the credits is rewarded by the hilariously self-aware “Super Cool,” made so in large part by rap segments from The Lonely Island.

The LEGO Movie 2 fulfills the core criteria of what makes a LEGO movie, but it does little beyond that. Although it is sure to delight children and those that appreciate its wild style, the film doesn’t seem to desire much beyond being a serviceable follow-up to the characters of Bricksburg. Partially saved by a somewhat surprising ending, although keener audience members will likely piece together the plot before the end, not everything about The LEGO Movie 2 is awesome, but enough is to warrant fans of the original to turn up and see the sequel.

Rating: 7/10