Based on the popular TV series of the same name, The Lego Ninjago Movie centres on six young ninjas (led by Dave Franco’s Lloyd), the protectors of the Ninjago city who all faced constant threats from Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Trouble arises when Lloyd made a huge mistake of using Master Wu’s (Jackie Chan) Ultimate Weapon (which is actually resembled a keychain laser pointer) in an attempt to defeat Garmadon.
By now, it has become apparent that the Lego movie franchise’s formula is more or less follows the same pattern, if not necessarily better: fast-paced, witty and colourful enough as family-friendly entertainment. The first 2014 movie was still the best of the lot. Then, this year’s Lego Batman Movie was reasonably entertaining, thanks largely to its geek-heavy Batman comic and movie references.
The Lego Ninjago Movie, which marks the third Lego movie in the franchise, plays it strictly by the numbers. In fact, it also lacks the same novelty factor seen in The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. Never mind the fact it was based on the popular Cartoon Network show that has already run for seven seasons so far. Instead, it was kind of baffling to see this movie actually took three directors (Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan) and six screenwriters just to come up a formulaic Lego movie. Needless to say, the plot — which revolves the conflict between an estranged son (Lloyd) and his evil father (Garmadon) is written in both banal and generic manner. Some of the jokes and pop-culture references tend to miss the mark or curiously misplaced (like what does Shaw Brothers-inspired opening logo has anything to do with the obvious Japanese ninja theme in this movie?) Last I checked, this is called The Lego Ninjago Movie. Not The Lego Kung Fu Movie.
The movie is also lacking a memorable, let alone worthy antagonist. For the record, Garmadon doesn’t really qualify as an antagonist. What we have here instead turned out to be a live-action cat dubbed Meowthra. Sure, the cat is cute and the way he acts like a Kaiju monster attacking the Ninjago city might be amusing for some viewers. But to me, the movie could have done better than casting a regular cat as the movie’s main antagonist.
Despite most of the flaws, The Lego Ninjago Movie still has its adequate entertainment values. Dave Franco and Justin Theroux both deliver wonderful chemistry as Lloyd and Garmadon respectively. Jackie Chan gives a solid supporting turn with his amusing yet playful performance as Master Wu. It’s just too bad the supporting ninja characters — Michael Pena’s Kai, Fred Armisen’s Cole, Abbi Jacobson’s Nya, Kumail Nanjiani’s Jay and Zach Woods’ Zane — are all largely relegated to background roles. Finally, the vibrant blend of stop-motion animation and CGI in The Lego Ninjago Movie is eye-catching as usual.