Lloyd (Dave Franco) faces the day-to-day sins of the father high school life, save his ninja friends (voiced by talented comedians that are very limited by the material), supportive mother (Olivia Munn) and VERY old uncle mentor, Master Wu (Jackie Chan). His deadbeat father, Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) has attacked Ninjago so many times that there’s a weather channel dedicated to predicting his moves. But when Lloyd attempts to end his tradition with the ultimate weapon (a laser pointer), a new evil is unleashed with fur, a sandpaper tongue and a heightened sense of curiosity is unleased on brick civilization.
There aren’t many surprises in Lego Ninjago whether or not you’ve seen the show Masters of Spinjitzu. Maybe it’s the repetitive setting or the lack of recognizable brands like Batman or Gremlins that makes this geared towards kids than families. With three directors and an army of writers that can fill a baseball stadium, this is defiantly the least of the three in structure, pacing, comedy and fresh material (worst would imply that it’s actually bad).
Having two Lego movies in the same year, it’s inevitable to compare this to The Lego Batman Movie. For all the laughs and tender moments with Lloyd and his father, they never feel connected to the lore and could be set anywhere besides this futuristic blend of San Diego and a bamboo forest, unlike when Batman’s story was always connected to Gotham. The ninja team, while funny, are just decorations alongside their giant mechs, which is a shame considering how funny they can be in comradery. Though I’ll give it props for supplying Jackie Chan with more lines here than an entire trilogy featuring a fighting panda bear. The live-action segments feel pointless without the twist in the original even if the blooper reel has a ball showing how many takes Chan had to go through catching five airborne bowls at once. And with most of the cast replaced with celebrities there’s a sense of isolation for those who were loyal to the show. Justin Theroux’s absent minded Garmadon is a riot, but he comes of as a bit of a Will Arnett knock off. And some jokes are stretched like silly putty to a detrimental degree.
The animation is caught between paying tribute to the amateur stop-motion videos and fluid choreographed fighting scenes, which are the best parts. Not much of Ninjago is explored other than the city and the jungle. Although the intro transformer showdowns are a blast, what separates this from the other world other than the outfits? Though the bigger budget is more noticeable as this is the best looking of the three.
Overall, The Lego Ninjago Movie is more a clone than originality for a series who’s moral revolves around being yourself. Instead of finding its own identity, it wants to repeat the what previously worked with less purpose. But there’s still a lot of fun to be had with semi-consistent comedy, fast animation and cute/creative villains. It’s basically the Lego equivalent of this year’s Power Rangers: very enjoyable even if it doesn’t live up to the full potential.
Note: No matter which Lego franchise is adapted, the 3D is always the same, dim, Venus money-trap. Skip it at all costs.
Pros: Semi-consistent comedy, fast animation, villains, Jackie Chan, tender moments
Cons: one-note team, pointless live-action segments, cloned story