Movie Review: Lego Ninjago Assembles Slowly

Movie Review: Lego Ninjago Assembles Slowly
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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The most frustrating thing about complicated Lego toy sets – when there are too many pieces, the instructions don’t make sense, and after all that work, the final product isn’t that cool. That same, slow confusion is the exact problem with The Lego Ninjago Movie.

Three years ago, The LEGO Movie surprised audiences with its intelligence, heart, purpose, humour and captivating wonder. Cynics who claimed the premise would be shallow and lazy were quickly disproven and enjoyed the surprise 2014 hit.

Fast forward to today, and those same fears have returned to haunt the now-massive Lego animated franchise. This new installment is an overcomplicated story filled with scattershot humour. And instead of a sharp, honest moral at the centre of the Lego characters that make them so charming, the movies changes messages every 15 minutes.

In the mystic playset-Tokyo-island of Ninjago, an ancient ninja warlord named Garmadon (Justin Theroux) has his latest plan to conquer the city thwarted by a group of teenage ninjas. When he discovers the team is led by his estranged teenage son Lloyd, (Dave Franco) a new threat emerges, and father and son must team up to save Ninjago.

What begins as father/son story then becomes about finding your destiny. But Lloyd’s quest then becomes about trusting your friends, and then honouring your master and carrying on a legacy. It’s finally about peace and the harmony of who we love the most.

Photo: Warner Bros. Animation

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Because the message changes so often, the story feels empty and unfocused. Instead of being sweet and likable (like the other Lego movies are) Ninjago feels distant and pointless. Even with the innovative animation and design of the stunning Lego worlds, it’s harder to watch than a family movie should be.

Most disappointing is the lack of Lego’s trademark blunt humour, filled with jokes that are usually so successful. I’m sorry to say this instalment is noticeably less funny that Lego and Lego Batman were, and it’s an unwelcome shortfall.

Perhaps the missed jokes and unoriginal Lego gags come from the team of three directors and six writers – none of which seem to have the right idea how to craft a cohesive story. If this creative formula is the new recipe for the Lego franchise, audiences should be hesitant and afraid of what future releases might be like.

Despite the redeeming final scenes and a few clever schticks, The Lego Ninjago Movie is the first misstep in the popular Lego series. My hope is the team at WB Animation will learn their lesson: Building a clear story is a foundation for the strong, marvelous Lego worlds that audiences love to explore.

The Lego Ninjago Movie
2 out of 4 stars

G, 101 minutes. Animated Family Fantasy.
Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan.
Starring Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn and Jackie Chan.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill, and Cineplex Oakville and VIP.

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