Now here’s where I stand with Ninjago: I had no idea what it was when I walked into this theater, but I knew the first two LEGO films were awesome and this one looked cool on its own. I knew there was a TV show, which I went back and watched a few episodes, after I saw this film.
There’s an island called Ninjago and the evil Garmadon (Justin Theroux) is constantly attacking it, however he’s always thwarted by a group of ninjas, led by Master Wu (Jackie Chan). These ninjas are voiced by Dave Franco, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Zach Woods, and Abbi Jacobson. One of these ninjas (Franco) is actually the son of the evil Garmadon, so is constantly ridiculed by his peers, because they don’t know he’s one of the ninjas always coming to save the day.
The strength of this movie is the visual effects, ramping up what worked in both The LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman. The action sequences are truly impressive, including giant mechs and monsters and some amazing martial arts, which were actually choreographed by Jackie Chan before being transferred to the LEGO figures. The colors are vivid and bright and the movie is an absolute blast to watch.
The plot is also relatively simple to follow, maybe intended for younger audiences. The bright colors and simple story make this an obvious choice for kids and even adults looking for some escapism.
If you’re looking for laughs, this movie will deliver as well. There’s some incredible talent here, though it doesn’t feel as nonstop hilarious as the other two LEGO films.
What doesn’t work?
I want to give kudos to the incredibly gifted voice cast here though they’re underutilized. Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) is the comedic relief but it becomes a little repetitive, especially considering Fred Armisen and Michael Pena are both comedy powerhouses as well but have very little to do. It’s also a little weird to me that this movie continues the story of the television show but recast all the voices. That seems like an odd choice to me, though I guess it makes sense in a marketing context.
I also had a problem with Justin Theroux, playing the villain here. His shtick as Lord Garmadan is eerily similar to Batman in this world. Constant talking, quick wit, lots of jokes. I almost thought it was Will Arnett voicing Garmadan for the first few bits, which makes this movie feel familiar, maybe reliant on the same notes that worked for the past LEGO outings. So if you’re going in with a critical eye, this will feel like it’s been done before.
This movie might also be jarring for you, if you haven’t watched the show. There were inside jokes I missed and characters that I had no idea who they were. There have been seven seasons of the show, so a lot has transpired and the movie expects you to know that.
Obviously, this movie is intended for fans of the show, so newcomers might find the film a bit jarring. It’s bright and the action is pretty incredible, though the humor is hit or miss, relying almost entirely on some cast while ignoring others, underutilizing some incredible comedic talent. This will be a fun ride but isn’t as easily approachable as the two LEGO movies before this.