Three years ago, The Lego Movie astounded us all with its charm, wit, and heart. February’s fantastic Lego Batman proved it was no simple fluke. Ninjago, the newest brick in the Lego Movie franchise, proves that unfortunately everything is not awesome.
While certainly awash in that irresistible Lego charm we’ve come to expect (Garmadon’s insistence that his son’s name is pronounced “Luh-loyd” never fails to raise a smile), Ninjago fails to reach the heady heights of its predecessors – and, crucially, their frenetic gag rate. Part of the giddy fun of previous instalments was seeing classic icons of pop culture interpreted through the wry lens of Lego humour. Situating the action entirely in the Ninjago universe grounds these inter-fandom flights of fancy.
Dave Franco and co. gamely give it their all, but viewers may still find themselves wistfully wishing for the simple joy of seeing Batman battle the Eye of Sauron, Voldemort, and the Daleks alongside his crippling emotional issues. What they’re left with – a colourful but ultimately shallow toy ad featuring brash, non-sequitur gags – is a poor substitute.
The strength in Lego Ninjago, therefore, undoubtedly lies with its impressive roster of voice acting talent. Jackie Chan impresses as the Ninja’s mentor Master Wu, but killer comedic performers including Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Fred Armisen and Michael Peña are relegated to underdeveloped, interchangeable side characters whose names you’ll be hard-pressed to recall once the credits have rolled. Only Justin Theroux, clearly having a whale of the time voicing the villainous and Vader-esque Lord Garmadon, makes any real impact.
The Lego Ninjago Movie is a perfectly pleasant way to pass 90 minutes or so, but adult viewers looking to revisit the heartwarming silliness of The Lego Movie or the breathless gag rate of Lego Batman are advised to look elsewhere in the Brickverse.
CAST: Justin Theroux, Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Olivia Munn
DIRECTORS: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher & Bob Logan
WRITERS: Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern & John Whittington
SYNOPSIS: Lloyd Garmadon, teenage member of an elite ninja fighting force, must battle a villainous warlord… who also happens to be his father.