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The Lego Ninjago Movie




The Lego Ninjago Movie (PG)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

09/28/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



The Lego Ninjago Movie (PG)

A teenage ninja protects the city of Ninjago from his warlord father in The Lego Ninjago Movie, another visually delightful Lego animated movie.
Which Wikipedia says is based on a line of toys, and also a TV show or something? Don’t worry, you don’t need prior knowledge of this universe to have fun here.
Lloyd (voice of Dave Franco) doesn’t like high school. It is, as he tells his mom (voice of Olivia Munn), very judgy and, as the son of supervillain Garmadon (voice of Justin Theroux), Lloyd has a hard time making friends or getting people to sit near him on the bus or just not being hated. Luckily, he has a group of friends with whom he can dress up as ninjas and periodically save the city from Garmadon. When he’s in disguise with these friends — Kai (voice of Michael Peña), Jay (voice of Kumail Nanjiani), Nya (voice of Abbi Jacobson), Zane (voice of Zach Woods) and Cole (Fred Armisen) — Lloyd is known as the Green Ninja and is beloved for saving Ninjago from Garmadon’s attacks. 
Of course, these ninja battles for Ninjago also seem to be a little bit about Lloyd’s attempt to get his father’s attention. The ninjas’ mentor Master Wu (Jackie Chan), who is also Lloyd’s uncle and Garmadon’s brother, attempts to get Lloyd to have patience when it comes to dealing with his father. But Lloyd says he’s eager to definitively defeat Garmadon. During one of the regular ninja-vs.-Garmadon battles, Lloyd pulls out what Master Wu calls the “ultimate weapon,” one Lloyd isn’t yet prepared to use. When Lloyd does use it, he learns that the weapon has the power of indiscriminate destruction, and he inadvertently tips the battle to Garmadon’s advantage. (The “weapon” is an example of how the movie’s creators do a good job thinking about their world in terms of both its internal logic and its relationship to our world. And it’s adorable.)
To rescue Ninjago, the ninjas must go on a quest to find an even-more-ultimate weapon. But after Master Wu is lost, Garmadon, who has followed them, becomes the only ninja master capable of leading through a bunch of very questy perils. Garmadon and Lloyd bicker and gain some small measure of understanding and just generally have the relationship you expect a black-costumed villain and white-costumed superhero to have when they are also father and son.
Writing this about two days after seeing The Lego Ninjago Movie, I remember that I liked it and generally found it fun and enjoyable but I can’t exactly remember why I liked it. It isn’t as revolutionary as the first The Lego Movie or as specific in its viewpoint as The Lego Batman Movie. But it was enjoyable. There is something great about the way these animated Lego pieces have scratches and chips — a real-seeming physical existence. Their little cup-hands can be used as a joke and yet the Lego people still have believable personalities. And I liked the cornball live-action part of this movie that bookends the Lego action. It was very The NeverEnding Story in a way I found rather charming (and Jackie Chan, who appears as a human person as well as lending his voice to a Lego person, is good at being corny and charming). 
The central story — the Star Warsian evil-dad/good-kid thing, the “you are not a Jedi yet” Lloyd learning his ninja craft part, the idea that great power comes with a price — is all stuff you’ve seen before but it is well-presented. The movie also nicely balanced the kid-friendly humor with jokes that adults would get (I would say mid-elementary school seemed where the kid adventure was aimed). 
So what makes it feel like a little less than the previous Lego movies? I suppose that it doesn’t build on anything those movies did, visually or storytelling-wise. It has less staying power — I think my admiration for The Lego Movie grew the more I thought about it. With Ninjago, the movie just sort of dissipated after it was over, I was just generally left with the sense that I saw a pleasant movie.
“Pleasant” is not the stuff of Oscar wins, but The Lego Ninjago Movie is fun — even laugh-out-loud funny at moments — and well-acted, even if its cast isn’t quite the home run of the first Lego movie. You might not spend the next month telling everybody how wonderful it was but you will have a perfectly lovely time while you watch it. B+
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor. Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan with a screenplay by Bob Logan & Paul Fisher & William Wheeler & Tom Wheeler and Jared Stern & John  Whittington, The Lego Ninjago Movie is an hour and 41 minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. 
 





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