REVIEW: The LEGO Ninjago Movie
Directed by Charlie Bean, Bob Logan & Paul Fisher
By Christopher Spencer
Coming from the same animation team as The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie stars Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Olivia Munn, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Zach Woods and Jackie Chan. The city of Ninjago is always under threat by the evil Lord Garmadon (Theroux), and it is up to the Secret Ninja Force to stop him. But ninja leader Lloyd (Franco) is Garmadon’s son, and is desperate to have a father in his life, even if his father is the worst person in the world.
I have enjoyed both LEGO movies in the past, particularly the first film. The direction, writing, humour, animation and voice acting was all on par and made what could have been a cheap commercial into a brilliant film of pure heart and imagination. The LEGO Batman Movie of this year was less than that, but still gave Batman fans enough to grab onto and had the great animation and energetic characters that the LEGO movies do well with.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie is animated so well, nicely mixes real-life with the LEGO tale at hand, and has some great jokes and voice-acting moments to entertain kids and some adults. Emphasis on some. I was entertained to a point, but around the one-hour mark I realised that this is definitely the laziest and most uninspired LEGO movie to date.
Jokes about “butts” and “dumb faces” would be mildly sprinkled into the other LEGO movies, but so much of The LEGO Ninjago Movie relies on this. The movie has only a few random moments of genuine comedy that I haven’t seen a hundred times before. I loved listening to Theroux as Garmadon and Jackie Chan as Master Wu, but the rest of the voice actors were greatly underused given the comedic talents that they all boast.
The story itself doesn’t offer a new, biting take on familiar tropes in action movies, like the other LEGO movies have done. Those movies worked on finding new ideas to add, but The LEGO Ninjago Movie relies on a tired father-son dynamic as the core storyline, then surrounds that with generic dialogue that should be self-referential, but instead feels like first-draft material.
I cannot say I was disappointed with The LEGO Ninjago Movie, because I didn’t have much to go on before. I never played with the Ninjago LEGO sets, nor was I aware of the cast or what the movie was about. There are several moments that made me laugh or got me into the story, and it is still intricately animated, but The LEGO Ninjago Movie is proof that you need to think harder about the LEGO movies, and not just rely on what’s easy. What is the best is always hard, but it’s worth it.