The Lego Ninjago Movie

Bricks and stones, may break my bones
Verdict: 
7/10 - The Lego Ninjago Movie lacks the panache of its predecessors but still provides brick-based fun for all the family.
Release Date: 
Friday, October 13, 2017
Written by: 

Dave Franco, Jackie Chan and Justin Theroux lead the voice cast in this new ninja-themed Lego movie.

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In 2014, The Lego Movie defied expectations to win critical acclaim and become a smash hit, with its success spawning another lucrative Hollywood franchise with sequels and spin-offs - the latest of which is The Lego Ninjago Movie.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Ninjago is Lego's ninja-themed toy line, which was launched with its own animated TV show series in 2011.

This particular Lego adventure is set in the island community of Ninjago, whose residents live in a brightly coloured metropolis that fuses eastern and western culture.

Their peace is, however, threatened by Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), a supervillain who lives in a nearby volcano.

Ninjago's only protection against this lava dwelling menace is the Secret Ninja Force, a group of six teenage ninjas, secretly led by Lloyd (Dave Franco), aka the Green Ninja, a high school student ostracised by his classmates for being Garmadon's estranged son and the product of a doomed marriage to his doting mother Koko (Olivia Munn).

As is customary, the young ninjas have a Mr. Miyagi-like mentor, Master Wu (Jackie Chan), who instructs his charges how to harness the power of the elements and chides them for their use of mech-machines rather than their 'Spinjitzu' ninja skills in their fight against Garmadon.

Master Wu warns them against using "the ultimate weapon", but in his desperation to end his dad's reign of terror, Lloyd fires the weapon - a laser pointer which attracts an even greater threat to Ninjago - a real, live-action cat called Meowthra.

What follows is a fairly traditional coming-of-age tale in which Lloyd and his fellow ninjas, Nya (Abbi Jacobson), Zane (Zach Woods), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), Cole (Fred Armisen) and Kai (Michael Pena) are joined by a reluctant Garmadon in their quest to develop their 'Spinjitsu' skills and save their home from its feline nemesis.

The beauty of the original Lego Movie and its successful Lego Batman spin-off were their subversiveness; even those who went into the film despairing at the thought of another cinematic sales pitch came out grinning at the way they sent-up Hollywood's franchise addiction while simultaneously building a new brick-based success.

The Lego Ninjago Movie isn't quite on the same level - the jokes and send-ups are a little less sharp at the third time of asking, and the plot, which centres on Lloyd's relationship with his father, is more saccharine than either of its predecessors.

Its lack of edge is summed up by a live-action framing device featuring Chan as a yarn-spinning shopkeeper, which lacks the panache of Will Ferrell's appearance in the first Lego film.

There is still plenty still to enjoy about Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan's film though, especially if you're a member of its younger target audience.

The animation is gorgeous as ever, with the early Transformers-style battle sequences between the Secret Ninja Team and Garmadon a lot more fun than the overwrought action movie that clearly inspired them.

Despite the script being patchier than its predecessors, many of the jokes still hit the mark, notably the sillier gags aimed at younger fans.

Of the voice cast, Chan is the stand-out, showing once more that he is as skilled at comedy as he is at martial arts, while Theroux clearly enjoys himself as Garmadon in the same way Will Arnett did voicing the misanthropic Lego Batman.

Although The Lego Ninjago Movie is unlikely to receive the acclaim its predecessors received, enough of the childlike joy at the heart of the franchise is still present to keep kids smiling - even though another toy-based film might begin to put a dent in parents' patience as well as their wallets.

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