REVIEW: ‘LEGO Ninjago’ is good, but falls below other LEGO flicks

The Art of Nerding Out

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Sometimes, three times isn’t quite the charm.

“The LEGO Movie” was a cinematic delight, a fun, fast-paced comedy filled with visual imagination. “The LEGO Batman Movie” was even better, taking the funny, visually epic approach of “The LEGO Movie” and applying it the Caped Crusader, resulting in another very funny, very entertaining offering.

Now comes “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”. Does lightning strike three times? Well, yes and no.

“Ninjago” introduces us to Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), a sixteen-year-old kid who gets dumped on by almost everyone in the city of Ninjago because his dad is the vile villain Garmadon (Justin Theroux). He’s also the Green Ninja, leader of the Secret Ninjas team tasked with repelling Garmadon’s advances.

When Lloyd makes a mistake that endangers the whole city, he and his team must go on an adventure to find a weapon that can smack down Garmadon for good. Led by their master, Wu (Jackie Chan), the Secret Ninjas must unlock their heroic potential and Lloyd must learn to accept his father.

“Ninjago”, like its predecessors, is lively, fast, and visually inventive. The voice actors turn in great performances, Chan and Theroux in particular. The action is zippy and a little easier to follow than the full-blown chaos of previous “LEGO” flicks. This movie is a joy to look at, and there’s no way your kids won’t enjoy it.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

But “Ninjago” isn’t quite as good as previous LEGO flicks. The jokes land a lot less frequently. That’s not to say the movie is a Swedish arthouse drama. There are some very funny scenes, especially the ones involving Meowthra (you’ll see what I mean) and several hilarious montage scenes. But the laughs aren’t as consistent.

Another issue is the whole father-son drama, which feels tired and uninspired. We just saw a similar subplot in “LEGO Batman” between Batman and Robin. And the story also makes little use of most of the cast of characters. The rest of the Secret Ninjas are pretty disposable, being little more than one or two character traits each. Even Lloyd’s mom get the fuzzy end of the lollipop, disappearing from the story for long stretches of the run time and wasting a delightful performance from Olivia Munn.

And the ending, while sweet, is anticlimactic. You don’t always have to blow up the world in your movie’s finale, but “Ninjago” seems to run out of steam after building toward a big action finisher. The ending they went with is more creative, but it’s also executed in a way that’s less satisfying.

But these flaws don’t ruin the whole movie. “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is still a fun time, full of colorful action and zany characters. Kids will love it, and adults should get enough chuckles out of the proceedings to make it worth watching. For family entertainment, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is fun for all ages.

3 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

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