The Lego Ninjago Movie: One (Very) Small Step Back For Lego Movies

When I read the news that a movie was in development based on the Lego property, I knew for a fact that it would be awful. I knew it with every fiber of my being. We all did, don’t lie.

The Lego Movie has to be one of the biggest film surprises in quite some time.

Now I didn’t love it the way that most people seemed to, but there was still a lot of enjoyment to be found even for a cynic like me.

While it wasn’t a bigger surprise as an individual film, the fact that The Lego Batman Movie works just as well (if not better in my personal opinion) as it’s predecessor is still quite the shocking feat. To be fair, though, it did have the benefit of being based on a character that everyone already knows in addition to having the audience know Will Arnett’s particular incarnation of the caped crusader.

But how will The Lego Ninjago Movie fare with a wide majority of audiences not being familiar with the property?

The story takes place in the city of Ninjago, where the evil Lord Garmadon is constantly trying to take over. Luckily, a team of ninjas and their high-tech mechs save the day each and every time. What the citizens of Ninjago don’t know is that Lloyd Garmadon (hated in school for being the son of a supervillain) is actually the leader of the ninja squad, which causes him quite a bit of anguish. While Garmadon is building his greatest weapon in his evil volcano lair, Master Wu returns home to the ninjas. He explains that they won’t be real ninjas if they only use mechs, that there are special powers they need to learn to harness. He also tells Lloyd about the Ultimate Weapon and how he isn’t ready for it yet.

Garmadon arrives the next day with a giant mech that is essentially impervious to all of the ninjas’ attacks. As a last resort, Lloyd takes the Ultimate Weapon to face Garmadon. It turns out to be a laser pointer from the real world, and it summons a real life cat that begins destroying the city. Garmadon takes the laser and gets the cat to destroy all of the ninja mechs. Lloyd reveals his identity as the green ninja and exclaims that he wished Garmadon wasn’t his father.

I won’t spoil the entire rest of the film, mostly because there’s no need to. Basically, there’s another weapon and a mission to retrieve it, and things don’t necessarily go as expected.

All in all, The Lego Ninjago Movie is pretty much on par with the previous two Lego film, but perhaps just one step behind them. Arguably the best and worst thing about this new franchise of films lies in the sheer amount of jokes they have. It’s usually pretty great because most of them hit, and if they aren’t hitting for you, they are definitely hitting for someone else. The problem with that is when the jokes are missing and dragging down a scene, you’ll still probably have to wade through ten more jokes before you get to transition anywhere else. A lot of this spaghetti sticks to the wall, but there’s more of it on the floor than I’d prefer.

Dave Franco voices Lloyd and puts a lot into it. He doesn’t get a role as campy as Will Arnett’s or as sincere as Chris Pratt’s, but he is able to balance the two out fairly well. The ninja squad is filled out by Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiana, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, and Fred Armisen. None of them really get much to do as individuals (Kumail probably gets the most one-liners and stands out because of it), but their presences are all helpful. Jackie Chan adds a lot of heart to his Master Wu, but the true highlight is Justin Theroux as Lord Garmadon, which is an incredible juxtaposition to my recent revisit of Mulholland Drive. Theroux voice performance here just might make for the best character of all three Lego films.

In the end, I’m not entirely sure that The Lego Ninjago Movie is a must-see for any demographic. If you’ve already loved the previous two Lego movies, then it’s definitely worth your time. If you’re an avid fan of animated movies in general, you should make time for this well considering the only mainstream animated film from this year that was better was The Lego Batman Movie. If the idea of (another) Lego movie doesn’t work for you, then I’d say you won’t miss out on too much by skipping this one.

The Lego Ninjago Movie: 6/10

Nick Potter

Co-founder of The Filmsmiths. Degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts with a minor in Cinema Studies from Central Michigan University. Pretty much the barbecue sauce of people but I'm doing my best.

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