The first question I was asked when I told people that I was going to a screening of The LEGO Ninjago Movie was “Let me know if it’s as good as the other two movies?” So, I’ll start my review with answering that vital question with a simple answer – no, it’s not as good as The LEGO Movie (2014) or The LEGO Batman Movie (2017). In defence of this new addition to the franchise, those two films were of such a high standard that it’s perhaps no wonder it couldn’t reach them.
However, it’s not even close to those two films. In fact, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a bit of a dud. In this case, the brick don’t fit.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie, belonging to a lesser known range of the Danish juggernaut of a toy range, is unquestionably something of a harder sell than that which has the name ‘Batman’ attached to it. The LEGO Batman Movie was one of the first gems of 2017, a comedy movie with a gag rate that demanded multiple watches, a multi-layered story and some superbly rendered characters. The LEGO Ninjago Movie has moments of Batman-esque brilliance with some set-pieces that truly stand out, but that’s mainly because the rest of the film is so forgettable.
When young Master Builder Lloyd aka the Green Ninja aka Dave Franco, and his team of secret ninja warriors are called once more to fight the evil warlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) it looks like it’ll just be another victory for the warriors. Led by Master Wu (Jackie Chan) they’ve got a pretty impressive scorecard, however this battle, taking place on Lloyd’s 16th birthday promises to be a showdown like no other – because Garmadon is Lloyd’s father. The ninjas need to work together, harness their inner power of Spinjitzu, stay on the right path and maybe locate that ultimate weapon that’s lying around somewhere…
The film does have some charm, with Franco being rather endearing as the angst-ridden teen and Theroux giving Will Arnett a run for his money in the husky-voiced-wise-charming-bad-guy stakes. The other characters are less developed, with the other five ninjas each getting a respective singular gag which does not befit an ensemble of their calibre (Kumail Najiani, Zach Woods, Michael Pena, Abbi Jacobson and Fred Armisen).
As said before, there are a couple of moments which are truly funny – and which won’t be outlined here to minimise spoilers. However, there’s far too much sameness throughout and the battle sequences gets repetitive as a result. The film is so high-energy and desperate to keep your attention that it becomes rather exhausting to watch, like spending 97 minutes with a child that’s overloaded on sugar.
In fact, speaking of children, that’s the main difference between this and the previous two LEGO films. The main audience for this one seems to be for children only, unlike the other two which had so much to offer for every age. For anyone over ten the majority of the gags feel rather lame, boringly familiar and quite simply, missing the magic we’ve seen before.
Everything gets thrown at the audience, up to and including a live-action cat (still not sure why), which leads to short momentary bursts of fun before returning to lacklustre meh-ness. And, by throwing all the bricks onto the board and seeing what would stick, the plot becomes uneven, regularly dull, and overstuffed to the point of being rather unruly.
Based on this, this is one film franchise that’s got to fight off fatigue. It’ll entertain the family enough during half term, but this is not LEGO’s finest hour.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie is in UK cinemas this weekend, and opens officially on October 13th.