Brick by brick, rank­ing ‘Lego’ fran­chise

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Brian Truitt USA TO­DAY

Why are the Lego movies the first film fran­chise built for the In­ter­net age? Be­cause they’re so darn click­able. ❚ If you groaned only mildly at that – or are a child who leaves enough Le­gos on the floor to give Mom and Dad their own Ninja War­rior course – the shared uni­verse of build­ing-block char­ac­ters are prob­a­bly your jam. Full of catchy songs, a punny sense of hu­mor and a toy box full of col­or­ful per­son­al­i­ties, the in­ter­lock­ing saga kicked off in Bricks­burg with new hero Em­met Brick­owski (voiced by Chris Pratt) in 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” trav­eled to Gotham City and Nin­jago City, and now heads to space for a new se­quel. ❚ With “The Lego Movie 2: The Sec­ond Part” in the­aters, it’s time to rank the Lego movies to see if ev­ery­thing is in­deed awe­some.

4. ‘The Lego Nin­jago Movie’ (2017)

Kids knew the Nin­jago char­ac­ters and toys more than pop cul­ture on the whole when this ar­rived, and the ef­fort com­bin­ing kung fu, kaiju movies and fam­ily drama never all comes to­gether. Still,vil­lain Lord Gar­madon (a de­li­ciously malev­o­lent Justin Th­er­oux) and his shark army are a hoot and the com­pli­cated dy­namic be­tween him and his es­tranged son Lloyd (Dave Franco), leader of a color-co­or­di­nated group of teen nin­jas, rises above a so-so nar­ra­tive. The live-ac­tion el­e­ments also are a mixed bag: Jackie Chan is in­cluded al­most as stunt cast­ing, but an an­tag­o­nis­tic real cat named Me­owthra to­tally rules.

3. ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Sec­ond Part’ (2019)

It’s a tes­ta­ment to the qual­ity of these films so far that this su­per-fun se­quel lands in the bot­tom half of the fran­chise. Char­ac­ters get mu­si­cal num­bers and ex­is­ten­tial crises aplenty as naive Em­met, uber-cool Lucy (El­iz­a­beth Banks) and their pals leave Mad Maxed Bricks­burg and head to a glit­ter­bombed planet ruled by the quite-pos­si­bly-evil Queen Wat­evra Wa’Nabi (Tif­fany Had­dish). While the fol­low-up is miss­ing the fresh­ness of the orig­i­nal, “The Sec­ond Part” ex­plores gen­der dy­nam­ics in fam­ily-friendly fash­ion and gives Pratt a chance to mash up his live-ac­tion heroes in the form of Lego ma­cho man Rex Danger­vest.

2. ‘The Lego Movie’ (2014)

Still a co­nun­drum five years later: How does a movie that lets Gan­dalf, Won­der Woman, Lando Cal­ris­sian, Abra­ham Lin­coln and Shaquille O’Neal share the big screen NOT get an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for best an­i­mated fea­ture? The orig­i­nal “Lego” smash, which took Em­met from an anony­mous worker bee to a guy who learns he’s meant for much big­ger things, is a re­fresh­ing con­coc­tion of pop cul­ture and child­like imag­i­na­tion that also suc­ceeds as an ir­rev­er­ent so­ciopo­lit­i­cal satire of cor­po­rate greed and mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal busi­ness­men.

1. ‘The Lego Bat­man Movie’ (2017)

Not only one of the best movies of two years ago, “Lego Bat­man” is among the few movies that ac­tu­ally un­der­stands its iconic Dark Knight at a core level. This supremely self-con­fi­dent dude (Will Ar­nett) punches bad guys, de­tails his “nine-pack abs” and shreds on his elec­tric gui­tar, but it’s all a mask for this com­pli­cated mess of a man who’s haunted by his par­ents’ death and won’t let any­one else close. So it’s all the more joy­ously bonkers to see him let ex­citable or­phan Robin (Michael Cera) into his heart while tak­ing on the Joker, Volde­mort, King Kong and oth­ers to pro­tect his beloved Gotham.

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