The Lego Ninjago Movie

It’s part Lego movie and part Ninjago movie, but forcing the two of them together proves a challenge that The Lego Ninjago Movie can’t handle.

While this hyperactive send-up of ninja films, Asian legends, and other pop-culture targets is ambitious and moderately imaginative, the Lego concept is no longer fresh after having spawned three films in short order.

In fact, there isn’t sufficient justification for using the plastic brick-style visuals at all, unlike the previous two installments, even if it spawned from a popular line of Lego toys and accompanying television series.

The story is told through flashbacks from bookend live-action sequences about a shopkeeper (Jackie Chan) sharing wisdom with a sad-sack youngster (Kaan Guldur). The latter has plenty in common with Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), a bullied young builder in Ninjago City who bands with his five friends to form a group of secret ninja warriors.

The problem for Lloyd is that their arch nemesis, the powerful Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), also happens to be his estranged father, from whom he desperately seeks approval and recognition — and not in a Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker kind of way.

At any rate, the whole thing predictably funnels into a series of elaborate action sequences filled with urban destruction, leading up to an inevitable final father-son showdown, without much time for meaningful character development elsewhere.

Six screenwriters provide some scattered big laughs, mostly through throwaway jokes and non sequiturs. The sardonic villain is by far the most amusing character, and some recognizable voices are peppered throughout the voice cast. The result will probably appeal more to children with short attention spans than to adults craving nostalgia or fresh satire.

More exhausting than endearing, the film tries to jam every frame with as many sight gags and one-liners as possible, presumably to cover a plot that plays out like a silly Power Rangers-style superhero saga.

By now, the franchise has strayed so far from the charming spirit of the original Lego movie that such a comparison practically is irrelevant. The Lego Ninjago Movie feels inspired more by financial than creative means. This toy story isn’t worth telling.


Rated PG, 101 minutes.