The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the third big screen adaptation of the construction toys that most of America grew up with. Directors Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan capture much of the fun, tongue-in-cheek humor that the previous features perfected, and brings a new world, Ninjago, into the mainstream.
The story of Ninjago focuses around Lloyd (Dave Franco), who is a typical high school student who doubles as a city’s protector along with his friends. Lloyd also happens to be the estranged son of the evil overlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), which is a source of constant ridicule at school. Ninjago is introduced to the audience by Mr. Liu (Jackie Chan), a shop owner explaining a hero’s journey using Legos in a live-action sequence. The viewer is then transported to the animated world of Ninjago, and the fast-moving story takes off from there.
The directors kept to the winning formula of the previous films by voicing the characters with well known and very talented comedic actors. Kumail Nanjiani voices Lloyd’s friend/fellow ninja, Jay, and does a great job of being a funny, nervous, realist, much like his character in Silicon Valley. Fred Armisen, a Saturday Night Live alum, voices Cole, and Michael Pena voices Kai. Both actors are very funny and bring a lot of life to the movie. The female ninja, Nya, is voiced by Abbi Jacobson, while the robot ninja, Zane, is voiced by Zach Woods, who brings his analytical comedy that he perfected in The Office to the film. Jackie Chan provides the voice of the ninja’s sensei, Master Wu, and brings an air of credibility to the martial arts aspect of the film.
The best character in the movie is Garmadon, who is an absent father to Lloyd, and also his archnemesis. Theroux is very entertaining in the role and gives Will Arnett’s Batman character a run for his money as the most arrogant, likeable character in the franchise. While being a villain hell bent on taking over Ninjago, he also has many heartfelt moments with the main character, in a way that the Lego movies have tended to do.
The film draws many influences from martial arts movies of the past, including clips and overt references throughout the movie. The movie starts out with a Power Rangers-esque vibe, where each member of the team has their own power (in this case it is elements) and their own giant robot vehicle. It then moves onto the ninjas’ journey of self discovery. The film is rife with pop culture references, and some good celebrity cameos, and it is entertaining for an adult and suitable for a child. Although a little short, it definitely is entertaining and enjoyable. Even though the first two installments set the bar high, Lego Ninjago is almost on par with both and is a great watch for the whole family.