By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
After achieving much critical and financial success with The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, the Warner Animation Group has returned with yet another Lego feature film. Based on the Lego Ninjago toy sets and television series, the movie version of this world obviously and proudly wears its inspirations from Japanese culture and anime and attempts to offer a more international style to Lego, a brand mostly steeped in American pop culture. Though the martial arts and fictional mech technology comes from Asia, most of the characters and much of the film’s world feel very Americanized and not as culturally diverse. The film does have its fun moments and some excellent voice work from the cast, but fails to offer a truly exciting story and the hilarious humor that make the first Lego movies so great.
In the Lego land of Ninjago, a band of teenage warriors, under the training and guidance of Master Wu (Jackie Chan), serve as guardians and protectors against the repeated threats of evil warlord Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Garmadon, whose only desire is to conquer Ninjago, hatches various outlandish attacks on the land, only to get continuously thwarted by The Secret Ninja Force led by Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), his son. Unbeknownst to Lord Garmadon that his son leads his enemies, the warlord finally scores a major victory for his side forcing the Ninja Force to regroup and seek out the “ultimate, ultimate” weapon to stop him and save Ninjago.
With a screenplay by Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Jared Stern, and John Whittington, based on a story by Hilary Winston, Logan, Fisher, Bob and Tom Wheeler, Dan and Kevin Hageman, directors Charlie Bean, Bob Fisher, and Bob Logan offer some laughs and fun with this new Lego film, but one that has a pretty thin plot and weak character development. The film also gets hindered by humor that either completely misses its marks or repeats too much of the working gags.
The movie can boast a great voice cast, but a cast whose talents are squandered with the weak material. Jackie Chan offers his Asian accent and witty sense of humor to the role of soulful mentor Master Wu. Justin Theroux voices the villain Lord Garmadon with much energy and genuine aplomb. Dave Franco brings a sweet and youthful, gee-whiz quality to his performance as Lloyd Garmadon, an earnest warrior who has to deal with his unusual father issues. The film also stars Michael Peña, Fred Armissen, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Ali Wong, and Olivia Munn, all of whom perform well in their roles.
So it is with some disappointment that I recommend that this third Lego movie get saved for viewing on television, if parents can get their children to hold out for that. At the very most, if parents cannot persuade the children to patiently wait, a matinee for this movie would be fine. Though I like certain things about this movie, I feel it is a step down from the overall brilliance of The Lego Movie and brilliant comedy of The Lego Batman Movie. Now that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have stepped down from the helm of the Star Wars Han Solo movie, perhaps they could be persuaded to take the reigns of another Lego movie. They have the talent and comedic chops to do it and the Lego franchise is now in definite need for something fresh and thoroughly entertaining.