The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Grade: 2.5/5

The LEGO movie universe, I guess that’s what we're calling it, has had its fair share of success with that of creating two sensationally entertaining films. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s “The LEGO Movie” was one of the biggest surprises of 2014 by far, as these two men crafted two films that were able to capture that of surface level entertainment for that of children while creating maturity and intelligent satire upon that of its material. This fourth wall breaking style of comedy would continue in that of Chris McKay’s “The LEGO Batman Movie” which was able to satirically poke fun at the caped crusader while maintaining a strong focus on the narrative. Its rapid delivery of jokes was a bit overwhelming for most, including me, but the creativity displayed within that of the screenwriting was undeniable. These two impeccable facets of ingenuity and maturity are almost absent from the third installment of this franchise in that of “The LEGO Ninjago Movie.” A film that focuses on the narrative of a young kid, or I guess a LEGO would be the proper term, in that of Lloyd (Dave Franco) that suffers from the faults of his father who regularly terrorizes the city of Ninjago. The villain known as Garmadon (Justin Theroux) is attempting to rule this city until he realizes the greatness that the son he left behind possess as this film tries to pull on the heartstrings in this conventional screenplay. 

In complete honesty, this movie was not for me. I found it to be incredibly dull for its lack of maturity and wittiness with that of its comedy. I’m not the target audience though, as “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is a movie designed for specifically children and no one else. This target audience is where the disconnect began for me as the past two films have been created for that of adults and children by providing imagery to that of adolescents and a simple enough story that delivered moments of mature humor. “The LEGO Batman Movie” was able to satirically poke fun at a hero that is well renowned through filmmaking, television, and comic books. The filmmakers took the vast history of the dark knight and poked fun at his methods, silly moments, and that of the ideology of the hero himself. “The LEGO Movie” almost did the same thing by embracing its cheesy and predictability of the screenplay premise and transformed it into something witty and mature that engrasped the audiences of adults and children. “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” takes all of the cleverness and sophistication of the first films and narrows that perspective to something that is more similar to that of a kids movie. This demographic targeting was the first disconnect for me. The second was that of the subject of the screenplay in that of Ninjago. Ninjago, for those who find themselves unaware of this show, is a children’s tv show that focuses on that of a group of ninjas who are trained to protect the city of Ninjago from evil invaders. It’s a niche subject for most of “The LEGO Movie” focused on the idea of LEGO itself and introduced characters we are well aware of, as did “The LEGO Batman Movie” which concentrated on a character that is one of the most iconic heroes of American comic books, filmmaking, and television. Ninjago is going to be an unfamiliar subject for most, and the obscurity of the subject does not work to the benefit of the screenplay as most of the clever jokes inserted in the screenplay go over your head if you're not a fan of the original television show. They’re noticeable, and you understand what they're poking fun at, but the jokes themselves feel unwarranted because the subject is unknown for most adults that do not have little brothers or sisters or children residing in their household. So, in summary, my favorite two characteristics of the LEGO movies are nowhere to be found in this film. Do I hate this film for that reason? No. Because this film is designed for those that are a fan of that show as well as for people, who are apart of the age group this film is targeting. I can appreciate that and understand it, as children in my theatre audience were glued to the screen throughout its one hundred and one-minute runtime. The animation itself is brilliant and makes this city of Ninjago come to life in the most beautiful of ways as the city feels as if it breathes life onto the silver screen. The direction is satisfactory and works for the most part despite this movie having three directors that may have saw the film in different but met together to make a conventional design that we have witnessed millions of times. A predictable screenplay for sure, but the compelling visuals maintain entrancement as well as the surface level entertainment. It may not have blown me away with its creativity or ingenuity, but the overall entertainment level was sufficient enough. The voice performances are solid with that of Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, and Kumail Nanjiani stealing the show for me. Each one of them delivered some dose of humorous dialogue throughout the film, and Kumail Nanjiani was able to capture a dose of sophomoric level humor that was refreshing every now and again. The film also begins intriguingly as it breaks kayfabe if you will. We are introduced to a world outside of Ninjago, the real world if you will. It’s a bit perplexing that we have a view of the outside world despite the past two films never presenting this outside view. It’s not a flaw for me necessarily, but it's baffling as to why it’s there. 

“The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is more of success for children audiences than that of adult audience members. Its subject is a bit too obscure, and the overall screenplay is a bit too childish for my taste. It gets a recommendation from me for those bringing children to the theatre or those who are fans of the original show. If you are an adult who was a fan of the maturity and cleverness of the first two films, then I recommend staying home. My grade is a bit under fresh, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else as “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is not a bad film by any means, but more of a disappointment for me as a fan of the last two film’s ingenuity. The overall visual production of these films continue to aspire and break new ground, but the screenplays are beginning to show holes within them with that of “The LEGO Batman Movie” not providing the level of investment that “The LEGO Movie” created in 2014. Hopefully, this franchise can bounce back, but if not then It’s a saddening to watch yet another franchise be flushed down the toilet due to poor writing. It’s upsetting, and utterly disappointing as the level of the audience of investment and trust within that of the screenwriters continues to plummet. Few great writers have displayed their ingenuity as of late, hopefully much more are to come.