'The Lego Ninjago Movie'
‘The Lego Movie’ was refreshingly original, and ‘Lego Batman’ played with a well-known franchise in such a fun way that it might be even better. Between the two, Warner Bros. had three years to perfect the formula. Unfortunately, hastiness and a poor choice of source material have made the third installment (which is the second big-screen Lego film of 2017) only a so-so kids’ movie that’s not up to snuff with its predecessors.
Part of what has made the Lego movies so much fun thus far is the blend of great humor and relevant pop culture. While 80% of the humor is still present in ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’, the pop culture fun has been replaced with the characters and plot of the terribly un-fun Cartoon Network series ‘Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu’. For what it’s worth, my three kids love the Lego movies, but want nothing to do with the TV series.
‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ kicks off by revealing nearly all of its cards in a brief period. We start in the real world, a small shop that looks like the perfect place where you’d find a Mogwai for sale. A kid who’s either friendless or bullied ducks into the shop to get away from classmates. As he explores, the shop’s wise owner (Jackie Chan) steps out and proceeds to tell a story that’s bound to build the innocent minor’s self esteem.
We then slide into the Lego world. Ninjago City isn’t just a city, but an island that’s tormented frequently by the ridiculous villain Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Just as the Joker’s evil plans are consistently foiled in ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, Garmadon has never succeeded in taking over Ninjago City. Every day or two, he emerges from his offshore volcano lair and attempts a new master plan that gets brought down by a team of six Power Rangersmasked teenage ninjas who never really use their martial arts. Instead, they’re each equipped with a cool piece of tech that does all their butt-kicking for them. No, they don’t join together to form Voltron.
Under the training of Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan), the ninjas have a perfect track record of defeating Garmadon. But that all changes when things get personal. The leader of the team, Lloyd (Dave Franco), is the son of Garmadon. While no one knows Lloyd’s identity as the Green Ninja – not even his dad – everyone in Ninjago City knows that Lloyd is Garmadon’s son. Ostracized by society, his absentee father’s neglect finally gets to him on his sixteenth birthday, which leaves a chink in the team’s armor and allows one of Garmadon’s evil plans to succeed.
‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ isn’t short on laughs, but it lacks the magic found in the other Lego movies. If anything, it plays its cards too early, leaving little surprise or originality for the last hour. If you’ve seen any one of the three ‘Kung Fu Panda’ films, then this 101-minute movie will drag a bit. I don’t make that comparison because of the martial arts, but because they both feature similar messages and themes. It carries a nice and important message for youngsters, but we’ve certainly heard it many times now.
‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ is worlds better than its wretched TV counterpart, but it’s also far from being on the same level as the previous two Lego movies.