I’ll say it now, they need to stop with the LEGO movies. The first film in 2014 was a very original take on the idea of a product placement film that was way better than it should have been, and I think it would’ve been best off as a standalone, singular LEGO movie. While I enjoyed the two films to follow, I still rolled my eyes when I heard they were releasing two LEGO movies in the same year. If Warner Brothers stops now while they have three solid films, before the sequels and spinoffs get out of hand, I’ll be happy.
That aside, I had a blast with The LEGO Ninjago Movie, yet again. It’s probably the weakest of the three LEGO films, but an upper hand I’d say it has on The LEGO Batman Movie from earlier this year is that it’s much more focused. I really liked LEGO Batman, but the third act especially seemed like a seven-year-old was given complete creative control and he jammed every character from popular culture he could think of into that movie. Ninjago has a much clearer idea of its story, and it stays within the limits of its universe.
Lloyd Garmadon, played by Dave Franco, is the son of evil warlord Garmadon, and he deals with constant torment for the fact that he’s the son of the man who attacks the city every day. Secretly, though, he’s the Green Ninja, a member of a secret force of Spinjitsu ninjas that protect the city, under the training of Master Wu, voiced by Jackie Chan. Once the initial exposition has wrapped up, the first act of the movie features basically nonstop action, complete with ninjas and mechs and flying robot dragons, and it’s awesome. That kind of frenetic entertainment with a lot of spectacle and some witty humor mixed in is exactly what I want to see from a LEGO movie, and it’s what I got for the majority of the film.
The humor isn’t as sharp or fast-paced as it was in The LEGO Movie or LEGO Batman, and it doesn’t always hit home in the ways it did in those films, but the jokes that do work had me chuckling quite a bit. LEGO Batman eventually reached the point where the comedy was riding the line between clever and annoying, and Ninjago can feel pretentious like that at times, but for the most part I was consistently entertained by the film’s unique sense of humor.
What LEGO Ninjago has a lot more of than its two predecessors is real heart, and I honestly didn’t expect that. The story focuses on the relationship between Lloyd, a ninja who battles for good, and his evil, power-hungry father. It can get a bit cliché at times when the script tries to be too mushy, but most of the family drama is pretty touching.
Kids can learn a lot about family and relationships in The LEGO Ninjago Movie, but if nothing else, they’ll have a blast watching it. The action scenes are a ton of fun, the journey the characters take is entertaining, albeit a bit formulaic, and the animation is crisp and immersive. The second act gets a little slow, but it picks up quick and finishes strong. There’s a live action sequence that caps the story at the beginning and the end, and it didn’t necessarily need to be in the movie, but the excitement of the animated portion makes you forget about that. There was a lot more depth in the film than I expected, and although it isn’t quite as effective in its humor and wit as The LEGO Movie, it’s still a solid entry in the series.
— Camden McDonald