The LEGO movie franchise returns to the big screen with Ninjago. This time the bloodthirsty warlord Garmadon – and his family – take center stage.
The movie starts out great: socially awkward elementary school-age boy enters antique shop, meets owner after almost breaking precious items and it treated to a fable. It’s got a nice 80s Neverending Story vibe to it that segues nicely into the LEGO land…
He’s a average teenage outcast living in LEGO land with one notable exception, his father the Warlord Garmadon keeps trying to conquer their island home Ninjago and subjugate its citizens. But Lloyd isn’t just the mild mannered block-kid he appears. He’s in training to be a ninja. Under the tutelage Master Wu, he and his teammates Jay, Kai, Cole, Zane and Nya are all that stand between the city of Ninjago and Garmadon’s domination.
But his mission doesn’t save him from being ostracized and blamed (in an Obama-like fashion) for everything that goes wrong on the island. Despite his secret identity and the good all the god his team does, Lloyd’s got daddy issues…big ones.
This the team up for a winding adventure across the island of Ninjago in search of the means to stop attacks on the city once and for all. There aren’t any cross-over character appearances this time around but have no fear, there’s plenty of LEGO Land figures and pop culture references to be had. I was most amused by the song selection for Master Wu’s wind flute solos.
Just like its LEGO movies predecessors, there’s plenty of story wrapped up in between the high jinx, irony and snark. but unlike its predecessors, more than a few of its gags (and pop culture flash sequences) feel forced and more than a little tone deaf. Ninjao draws on both Chinese and Japanese culture for its mythology and story to great effect but little visual acknowledgement. There are giant Mecs, mystical dragons, a quest to embrace the way of the ninja, and big reveals about Lloyd’s parents and their past. But over all, the fun falls short of the previous movies and the gags begin to feel a little tired – this is truly a little kids’ movie where flashing color and funny gimmicks win out over perfectly timed witticism and jokes that work on all age groups.
As a kid’s movie, it more than does it’s job. As a LEGO movie, it’s a far cry from what made its franchise-mates so hilarious to a large cross of the movie going public. There’s barely any master-building in the tradition of the previous films, the real world cross over elements are jarring and seem more than a little phoned in, the “moral to the story” is delivered far more highhandedly than in any other movie, there was just an element of childishness that didn’t ring all the way true by the end.
Go in expecting good fun and not much more this time around, The LEGO Ninjago, leans far too heavily on “the formula” so the film doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the screen. Here’s hoping this doesn’t signal the end of the LEGO movie magic.
Grade: B –
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