After the success of the irreverent “The Lego Movie” and the pseudo-sequel “The Lego Batman Movie,” the Lego Universe’s much-anticipated third installment should be able to connect to young brick builders everywhere, right?
While “The Lego Ninjago Movie” has all of the elements of a plot line and emotional appeal, the animated film falls a bit short of its predecessors. The storytelling is uneven and may be difficult to understand for the younger demographic. However, that target audience will still connect to the frenetic battle scenes, sophomoric humor (butt jokes, anyone?) and engaging characters.
The film follows six young, color-coded ninja warriors trying to defend their island city from “The Worst Guy Ever,” Garmadon (voice of Justin Theroux). By day, the ninjas are regular high-school teens led by Lloyd (voice of Dave Franco), an outcast to those outside his core group.
When the evil warlord threatens their hometown of Ninjago City, the six transform into their elemental counterparts: Jay (the voice of Kumail Nanjiani) is the Blue Ninja with lightning power; Kai (voice of Michael Pena) is the Red Ninja with fire power; Cole (Fred Armisen) is the Black Ninja with earth power; Zane (voice of Zach Woods) is the White Ninja with ice power; and Nya (Abbi Jacobson) is the Water Ninja, who also wears black so that’s kinda confusing but she is the only girl.
To balance out the heavy male perspective, Lloyd’s mother KoKo (Olivia Munn) becomes the voice of reason throughout the film. Although, it would have been nice if KoKo’s back story was more prevalent.
Loosely narrated by Master Wu (Jackie Chan), the story navigates through some heavy family issues including abandonment, bullying and a combative father-son dynamic. Parents will appreciate the lessons of inclusiveness, teamwork and forgiveness.
And did you know that Ninjago is pronounced two ways? Apparently, when referring to Ninjago City, it’s pronounced nin-JAH-go. It’s also a ninja battle cry, as in “Ninja, Go!”
Of course, this isn’t news for the key demographic for the film. At a packed screening in Grapevine, the majority of the audience was younger than 10. Throughout the movie, you could hear kids calling out to their favorite ninjas, laughing out loud at the back-and-forth jabs and screaming that familiar refrain: “Go, Ninja, Go!”
THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE
☆☆☆ (out of five)
Director: Charlie Bean
Cast: Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux, Dave Franco, Olivia Munn, Fred Armisen
Rated: PG (mild action and rude humor)
Running time: 90 min.