Lego Movie 2

Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pratt in "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part." 

Everything that was awesome about 2014's "The Lego Movie" has been taken away brick by brick for the sequel, "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part."

What's left is a pile of busted pieces akin to remnants of a Lego birthday party attended by 1,000 children.

The action picks up five years later with the Lego world living under a major threat. Anytime they try to build beauty and splendor, a force from above swoops in to cause mass destruction. What was once a thriving city has been turned into a plastic brick version of "Mad Max."

Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) maintains the positive outlook that got him through the first film. It's tested when several of his friends, including Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett), are taken by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz).

This sets in motion a convoluted story about how Batman needs to marry a weird morphing shape known as Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). The muddled reason for the union is just one of the misfires by the group of writers that include Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

There's nothing director Mike Mitchell ("Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked") can do when faced with a script that fails on so many levels. One of the biggest strengths of the first "Lego" movie was it had a layer of superficial fun that could keep the attention of the youngest moviegoer, whether that be a catchy pop tune or the colorful characters. There was also a level of humor aimed at older audiences from the same fun songs and characters.

That collective writing has been replaced by an endless string of action sequences and a few jokes aimed at adults. You have to wonder what the target audience is when an animated movie has jokes based on "Die Hard" and Radiohead.

What ends up being the biggest failure with the script is it doesn't have the same beautiful central theme as the first film. The clever reveal of the Lego world connected to the father and son behind the construction gave that film heart without have to force the story along.

A spat between a brother and sister never has the same emotional edge. Their squabbles over playing with each other's toys are petty, not provocative. And it all ends in a painfully predictable conclusion.

It is fun to see a few of the Lego characters again, especially Wyldstyle who shows that through a winning bit of voice work by Banks, the character could sustain her own film. Arnett continues to be a fun choice for Batman but there isn't as much comedy relief with the character. As for the new characters, they are forgettable, especially Haddish's over-the-top performance.

There is always some slippage with a sequel. The audience has lost the "first date" feel of discovering what made the original work so entertaining. In the case of "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part," it wasn't a slip, but a cataclysmic fall that leaves the movie a disjointed mess.

Given the choice between walking barefoot through a room of Lego blocks or seeing the film, start taking your shoes off.


'THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART'

1 star

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

Director: Mike Mitchell.

Rated PG for rude humor.

Running time: 93 minutes.