It’s not often you get a sequel that’s just about as entertaining and funny as the original, but this movie comes pretty close. Written by the same guys (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller) who penned the first, this CGI pop-culture fest holds true to its unencumbered lunacy and kid-friendly attitude throughout the film.
While the others are forced to listen to a catchy earworm song (This Song Is Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head) designed to brainwash them, Lucy refuses to accept her fate and escapes. Meanwhile Emmet, hot on the trail of his friends, he meets up with intrepid Rex Dangervest (Pratt again), a super-cool, galaxy-defending archaeologist, pilot, and raptor trainer (they’re his crew!). Together they form a partnership to team-up and take-down the Queen and the Systar System.
But just as Batman and the Queen are preparing to say their nuptials before the entire Systar System (which includes the entire DCEU, BTW), WyldStyle discovers something sinister going on! Oh-no! Will Emmet save WyldStyle in time? Will a brainwashed Batman say, “I do”? And what’s up with Rex and his fist-shaped spaceship? Just like the first movie, writers Lord & Miller have a grand ‘ol time throwing out every conceivable sight & verbal gag imaginable (the Bruce Willis one is hilarious), not to mention keeping the tone even for both kids and adults. Yes, sometimes the dialogue gets a little hokey and juvenile, but right around the corner is another pop-culture gag to us older kids happy.
However, just like in most sequels, this storyline lacks the one-two punch the original had in spades. It does help that director Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever) delivers a frenetic pace and all the dazzling eye-candy is fun to watch, but the plot isn’t as creative as the first one, as many of the recycled jokes and gags are little stale, since you’ve already heard them before. No doubt, the kids are gonna love it and the adults will appreciate all the inside jokes and references. As far as a sequel goes? It could have been far worse. As Emmet would say, “Everything is awesome!”
Truth is, they never make it to Mars, they end up on the planet Venus, but I guess “Mars” looked better on the poster, huh? This dismal sci-fi comedy was made towards the downward end of their brilliant career and it showed. Tired of working together, needing the money, and contractually obligated, A&C just did what they had to do.
We start off with hang-dog Orville (Lou Costello) who’s the oldest orphan at the Hideaway Orphans Home. One day he accidentally winds up inside a truck heading to a top-secret laboratory and placed under the guidance of lab worker, Lester (Bud Abbott). Together they load supplies aboard a spaceship and, naturally, clumsy Orville accidentally hits the ignition button and the spaceship blasts off, flying across the country to New Orleans where the Mardi Gras is in full swing. When they see the “hideous creatures” outside (all those crazy people wearing those elaborate costumes) they think they’ve landed on Mars!
Meanwhile, two escaped convicts, the dim-witted Harry the Horse (Jack Kruschen) and the silver-tongued intelligent Mugsy (Horace McMahon) sneak onboard, put on some spacesuits, steal a “freeze ray gun”, and then rob a bank. Lester and Orville, also clad in the same spacesuits, are wrongly accused of the crime (just like in Stir Crazy) and rush back to the spaceship, where Mugsy and Harry force them to blast-off into outer space. Missing Mars by a few miles, they land on Venus and (WTH?!) they’re quickly captured by female guards and brought to Queen Allura (Mari Blanchard), who informs him that Venus is inhabited ONLY by women and feminism rules the day!
Bizarrely enough, Allura takes a liking to portly, stupid, and immature Orville and agrees to have him be their king, but ONLY if he promises to be true to her. He agrees and has Harry and Mugsy imprisoned for their Earthly crimes. But Mugsy convinces one of the guards to flirt with Orville and the blubbering idiot “takes the bait”, enraging the Queen and having her order all the men to leave Venus at once. Upon returning to the Earth, the men are all worshiped as heroes, but Allura, who is watching the celebration from Venus, sends a spaceship to Earth and drops a cake on Orville’s head, killing him instantly. Okay, I made that last part up, it doesn’t kill him, but that would have been a helluva ending if it did, huh?
Written by D.D. Beauchamp & Howard Christie (TV westerns like Wagon Train & Daniel Boone) and John Grant (over a dozen A&C movies), this was just another formulaic A&C vehicle where the boys get into a mess and hijinks ensue… only in this case, it’s in outer space. By 1953, the appeal of A&C had waned and so had their stale comedy antics. They’d been on the radio, TV, and in the movies since the early 40’s and their predictable slapstick brand of humor was always the same, much like The Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers. You can tell the magic wasn’t there anymore in their acting and neither was the writing; it was just set-up/joke, set-up/joke, repeat.
The only interesting thing about this weird little movie (only 77 minutes long!) are the supporting cast. Look for a nine-year-old Harry Shearer (of Simpsons & Spinal Tap fame) and all those silver bikini-clad women on planet Venus? They’re all the contestants from the Miss Universe competition. The boys only made four more movies after this one, a sad farewell to a fantastic comedy team that were beloved by all.