REVIEW: The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

The Lego Ninjago Movie

Written By: Nigel Asipa
@AsipaNigel
The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie stunned and left audiences in awe of it’s kinetic, visually appealing animation and clever wit. Probably boosting sales for Lego products around the world in the long run. They’re two of the most rewarding animated movies of the decade thus far so my expectations were rather high to at least be subpar.
It’s with a little disappointment that The Lego Ninjago Movie (mouthful of a title by the way) is the lesser of the three in the franchise thus far. That isn’t to say that Warner Bros. should call it quits, just the magic seems to be lost on this one.
Even with Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who served as directors for the The Lego Movie and producers for The Lego Batman Movie) watching over to ensure the endearing charm is intact, the material doesn’t seem to serve the comedic talents of Dave Franco and Justin Theroux all that well.
We meet Lloyd (or La-Lloyd, he’s voiced by Dave Franco) Garmadon, the son of Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Lord Garmadon is hell bent on ruling the city of Ninjago and everything in it. Lloyd’s 16. He’s a nice kid but nearly everyone else doesn’t seem to see that. He’s the son of the crazed warlord that constantly wreaks havoc on their city. If only they knew he was the green ninja of a supercool ninja clan, accompanied by 5 other ninjas in which they all go to the same high school (Power Rangers much?).
Besides Lloyd, we have the following; Kai (Michael Pena) the fire ninja, Nya (Abbi Jacobson) the water ninja, Cole (Fred Armisen) the earth ninja, Zane (Zach Woods) the robotic ice ninja and Jay (Kumail Nanjiani) the lightening ninja.
They’re under the tutelage of Master Wu (Jackie Chan). He’s disappointed in his students that they haven’t defeated Garmadon. After Lloyd gets too desperate and makes a mistake that summons Meowthra (a cat who’s probably as much a villain as Garmadon I guess) that levels the whole city, Wu takes them all on a spiritual journey that’ll unlock more than just their elemental powers.

“It’s not been a vintage year for comedy but The Lego Ninjago Movie could be the funniest film of 2017” – The Daily Express.
It hasn’t been a great year for animation either. Captain Underpants was a surprise, but I doubt it’ll be remembered all that much, Cars 3 was kinda pleasant but to a franchise (Cars I mean) that isn’t really raising many eyebrows and don’t even get me started on The Emoji Movie. It’ll be slim pickings in the awards circuit for the Best Animated Feature category.
This feels more like something to put on just to quieten the kids down and that’s it, it’s mostly for the kids. There isn’t enough enjoyment for adults to get out of it and that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just the first two seemed to tickle everyone’s funny bone. But it feels more episodic this time round. The humour is more slapstick and watered down in terms of subtext, it’s more straightforward.
To give you an idea of the comedy, there were 7 Wilhelm screams, in a row. At one point one of the ninjas says to Nya, “where’d you get that bike? From the great stuff store?”. And some of the gags are quite repetitive, within the same sequence characters will utter something in the same tone of voice over and over.
It parodies stuff like Kill Bill, Game of Death and Look Who’s Talking Too but I don’t sense any of the edgy, self-satirical hilarity its predecessors had as well as action sequences being incomprehensible at times.

The voice talent is superb throughout. Franco in particular evokes excitement, energy and some tragedy while Theroux is having a blast playing a buffoon of a villain that from time to time gets a little insecure. He sounds like he should be on a talk show. The relationship between the two is something out of Star Wars surely but I didn’t nearly care much for these characters like Mr Vader or Mr Skywalker (spoiler alert! Oops)
By the time the adventure reaches Lloyd’s resolution, it all feels underwhelming. Touching on themes of human connection, it all feels mostly bland in retrospect. Had this quality of surface level gags and whacky action happened in The Lego Movie, people probably would’ve been right to call it an eye rolling cash grab that was devoid of emotional resonance and a respectable purpose to even exist in the first place.
I certainly wouldn’t lose hope for the franchise yet; any franchise is allowed a stumble here and there. I’ll just keep my excitement in check next time for the next blocked adventure.
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