Thursday, October 05, 2017

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan, 2017)

Although estranged from his father, the fearsome Garmadon (Justin Theroux), teenager Lloyd (Dave Franco) still gets blamed for the terror his dad inflicts on the city of Ninjago. As leader of the Secret Ninja Force, Lloyd and five of his friends fight Garmadon in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. After many failed attempts, Garmadon finally defeats the Secret Ninja Force, leading Lloyd to deploy The Ultimate Weapon. What he unleashes causes even more chaos in the city, so Lloyd and his team must combine forces with Garmadon to go on a journey to find The Ultimate Ultimate Weapon and save Ninjago.

Like the two other LEGO films, THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE bursts with visual ingenuity and comedic irreverence. It moves briskly through an archetypal story that is vigorously seasoned with one-liners. The shots are crammed with details and jokes waiting to be discovered when stepping through the frames on a Blu-ray or digital file. There’s plenty to be impressed by, yet the sameness of this with the other films, in what I suppose is becoming the LEGO genre, render it as a solid effort lacking novelty.

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE is neither the inventive surprise that characterized THE LEGO MOVIE nor the exhaustively ambitious effort that marked THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. The style is well established, and even if the source property, a toy line and TV show, is less familiar to the masses, the premise borrows heavily from the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell identified as common to many myths. These aren’t necessarily negative factors. In fact the predictability may enhance its appeal as comfort viewing, especially for kids and parents eager to distract them. Newness in and of itself doesn’t makes something better, but the prefabricated quirkiness of THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE dazzles less because it plays as though it’s been assembled from a tried-and-true set of instructions.

Freshness criticisms aside, it’s a consistently funny movie, which it achieves in part through the volume of jokes. THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE’s subtext about children coming to understand that fathers and mothers were and are people with lives extending beyond parenthood may be more subtle and complex for younger viewers to grasp, but it’s nice to find some thematic intricacy among the stylistic uniformity.

Grade: B-

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