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The LEGO Ninjago Movie – Movie Review

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The LEGO Ninjago Movie – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Warner Brothers

To their credit, each LEGO Movie has managed to be distinct in tackling an aspect that has made the toy stand out in the marketplace. The LEGO Movie sought to celebrate the creativity and mission statement of the bricks. The LEGO Batman Movie showcased the evolution of the various pop-culture brands that have been added to the decades-old toyline. The LEGO Ninjago Movie isn’t nearly as meta-heavy and instead prefers to tell a straight forward adventure story, while adding new elements to the world. It might pale in comparison to its predecessors, but the film still manages to bring its own cleverness and ideas to the table.

The focus is largely on Lloyd and his strained relationship with his evil overlord father. This sends up the similar dynamics between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, but the screenplay does take some new spins on their bond with extra comedy thrown in. There is an arc for both Lloyd and Lord Garmadon and the three directors and their large screenwriting team manage to cobble together a surprisingly touching back story for this world-conquering dad. The vocal performances from Dave Franco and Justin Theroux also allow for some solid back-and-forth between them. There is a genuine attempt to show what can happen between a father and their child when they’re absent and distant.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie adds a number of elements to expand the LEGO Universe, most creatively with an animal invading the play set. It shows how the talented filmmakers behind these movies are taking full advantage of the medium to show how LEGO is experienced by all. The building aspect of the toys is properly highlighted with the giant fighting robots controlled by the ninjas and the film never forgets the limitations of the minifigs when they start kung fu fighting. The lack of knees to bend forces the animators at Animal Logic to find different ways for the ninjas to battle.

The film makes the curious decision to include bookends with Jackie Chan providing context for the main storyline, but this aspect doesn’t add much. One expects these portions to connect with The LEGO Movie, but that opportunity is not taken. The heavy focus on Lloyd means the other ninjas are sidelined. One can be forgiven for leaving the screening without telling them apart. The main ninja, aside from Lloyd, who sticks out is Zane the robot. The running gag of Zane pretending to be a human teenager is thankfully not beaten into the ground and the writers craft some of the funniest lines for him. Not having seen the long-running LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu television series, it’s difficult to know how much one needs to watch it to fully understand the character dynamics. However, the film doesn’t take long to get one into the groove of things.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a father-son story and adventure tale first and LEGO movie second and that’s fine. Not every movie in this franchise has to strive to be super-meta. As long as the appeal of the toy is understandable and they can replicate the joy of playing with the minifigs and building the various sets, the films can be considered a success. This is hardly a breakthrough story, but the filmmakers still manage to create a solid plot about two individuals trying to figure out their differences as well as their similarities. It’s impressive how largely un-cynical these movies based on toy lines have become. As long as they can keep the quality of directing and writing high, they can keep producing the LEGO Movies until the end of time.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison