It’s a tough act following the masterful LEGO Movie and the greatest Batman film since The Dark Knight, but the LCU gives it a decent shot with their Ninjago brand. Playing as an earnest expression of the West’s love affair with Eastern films, The LEGO Ninjago Movie covers everything from ’70s kung fu cinema to big monster flicks. While this setup makes for some cool blockbusting blockbuster moments for the family, it doesn’t have the smarts to follow the rectangular footsteps of the previous LEGO films.
Lloyd is at the heart of the film, leader of a secret super ninja squad that pilots mechanised animals. His father also happens to be the evil Garmadon, an evil warlord who commits evil against the city because… evil. Thus, the film kickstarts a theme cinema is strangely in love with: daddy issues. Unfortunately, while the previous two LEGO films successfully judo flipped our expectations in the third act, Ninjago plays out exactly how you think it will. It’s disappointingly basic, which isn’t to say it’s bad, but it certainly isn’t great.
However, despite having neither Chris McKay (LEGO Batman) nor Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (LEGO Movie) in the writing room, there’s still a good amount of humour mined from this LEGO-verse. One sees Lloyd accuse his deadbeat dad of ruining his life, to which he replies “How could I ruin it? I wasn’t even there”. Another uses an ‘Ultimate Weapon’ similar to The LEGO Movie’s glue cap to trigger an ingenious spin on Godzilla that’s too good to spoil. Sillier still, there’s a giant robot that shoots sharks yelling “nom nom nom nom nom nom” – this is objectively funny in any language.
The first two films are gold for being silly yet not stupid. Ninjago’s got the silly down, but when a plot turn relies on the good guys asking the bad guy for help taking down the bad guy, it gets a bit stupid.