The LEGO Ninjago Movie aims younger for its target audience, and while it’s still enjoyable, it doesn’t quite reach the peak of its predecessors.
Director: Charlie Bean
Summary: The battle for Ninjago City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, AKA the Green Ninja, along with his friends, who are all secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise, they must defeat evil warlord Garmadon, The Worst Guy Ever, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad.
The fact that The LEGO Movie was so good was nothing short of a miracle. It had no business being as good as it was, and the fact that The LEGO Batman Movie was also fantastic just sort of blew everyone’s minds. Now here’s the The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and for the first time, it feels like Warner Bros. Animation has phoned it in.
The animation for the LEGOs themselves are still top tier, and it’s amazing that millions of dollars are being spent to make what looks like a stop-motion LEGO fan film. The spell breaks sometimes due to a “monster” that shows up, and when they decide to acknowledge that real water exists in this version of the world. For the first time in this series, The LEGO Ninjago Movie feels much more like a kids movie than a family movie.
The main difference between a kids movie and a family movie is this: a kids movie will entertain the kids and leave the parents in the audience ambivalent at best, while a family movie will entertain everyone in the family — usually for different reasons. In this case, there are a few moments that feel made for the adults in the audience, plus all the classic kung fu callbacks that will likely go over the kids heads, but this one just isn’t as consistently funny as the other ones. The second act goes on way too long and the kids in the audience at the screening were getting antsy. When the kids start running up and down the stairs, you know there’s a pacing problem.
There is also a fantastic voice cast that doesn’t get much to do. Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, and Zach Woods all play Lloyd’s (Dave Franco) classmates and fellow ninjas, and a plot that just has them yell “Yeah!” every couple of minutes wastes their talent.
Jackie Chan is clearly having a ball playing the wise old mentor, but he has to bail on the movie halfway through for plot reasons. There is also something strange about the message it’s sending to kids: no matter how crappy your parents were in the past, if they are trying now, you should forgive them. It’s a bit odd, considering the positive, be-yourself messages the previous movies send — which just makes this one stand out even more.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie is fine. As far as kids movies go, you can certainly do worse, and fans of classic kung fu movies are likely going to find a lot to love. There were impossibly high standards set for this movie that it likely never stood a chance of meeting. That being said, this is still a step backwards for this franchise, which is a shame. Hopefully the next one will be better.
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