Sunday, January 28, 2018

The LEGO Ninjago Movie: Entertaining Mind Play on the Screen

Movie Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)
Version: Library borrow

Out of a possible five LEGO tiles, I'd give the third LEGO movie -- The LEGO Ninjago Movie -- a four. I liked the other two better. But only slightly. The problem is, they all seem to be developed out of the same formula, so I was kind of disappointed that this one wasn't a lot different: Boy with daddy issues fights off megalomaniac father figure who seeks to dominate the boy's culture. And there's a wise elder other-fatherlike figure nearby to guide the boy.

What I did like about The LEGO Ninjago Movie, indeed with all LEGO movies, is the playfulness of the script and the multiple sight gags and easter eggs you see throughout the film. And the characters are always fun, way fun!

The basic premise of the story is that Lloyd (Luh-loyd as his detached abandoned father calls him) is a teen at a typical high school shunned by his classmates for being the son of the local evil warlord. That's his "day job". "By night" he's a young ninja superhero, one of six, who battles that evil warlord to defend their island home against attack and conquer. The warlord brings along a gang of spirited generals to help him take on the island and the ninjas, and when things go awry, he jettisons them from their volcano home lair when they can't come up with new evil plots for their next attack. Lloyd is the leader of the ninjas, who has a chip on his shoulder because his father, Garmadon the evil warlord, left him when he was a baby, and as he confronts Garmadon in each attack, he gives him one more opportunity to explain why he abandoned him and redeem himself with his son. But things aren't quite as they seem and Lloyd and his ninjas go off on a journey of discovery with the aid of their wise mentor, Master Wu, to find The Ultimate Weapon, to take on Garmadon.

The Ninjago version of the franchise has the usual concoction of LEGO-tile built creations, from cityscapes to vehicles to outside environments to weapons and characters. It's an imaginative play word you would love to sit down on the floor and mess around with like a kid, only it's on your TV screen and it's animated. I can't imagine the work it takes to create a world like that in an animation studio. But this production studio has done it and made it highly watchable.

There are, of course, multiple voice talents, but the ones that matter in this story are Dave Franco as Lloyd, Justin Theroux as Garmadon, and Jackie Chan as Master Wu. The film actually begins with Jackie Chan in live action as a wise Chinese merchant who introduces a young boy to the story. These characters are the heart of the action and these actors rise to the occasion. (Interestingly, before I watched this DVD I watched a young Jackie Chan in Rumble in the Bronx where he does some of his most amazing kung fu stunts -- in this movie, Chan looks much aged.)

The graphics for the end credits were interesting, too. They used what looked like paper LEGO schematics for building the LEGO Ninjago world to build the title graphics around. That's worth staying around for.

A LEGO movie is always fun family entertainment. They won't all be five out of fives, and it's unfair to compare one against another, really. The LEGO Ninjago Movie stands on its own as an interesting story with imaginative characters and entertaining mind play on the screen. Go for it!

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