“The LEGO Ninjago Movie” has style, but lacks substance

Review by Grand Dillard, Staff writer

“The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is the latest film in the very successful Lego film series following “The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Those past films have done a great job at providing high-octane fun and excitement for kids, while also having clever humor for adults. Although still a decent flick, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie”  unfortunately doesn’t live up to the previous films in the series.

The film takes place in the Lego city of Ninjago where the evil Garmadon continuously tries to take control, only to be stopped by the Lloyd the Green Ninja and his friends: a group of young ninja warriors trained by martial arts legend Master Wu. It’s the basic heroes versus villain scenario, except there’s one twist; Lloyd is Garmadon’s son, and almost everyone in the city hates him for it. Wanting to stop Garmadon once and for all, Lloyd and his friends have to learn to keep their egos in check and unlock their true powers so that they can become powerful enough to overcome Garmadon.

When it comes to the characters, it’s give and take. The most entertaining of the cast has to be both Master Wu and Garmadon. Master Wu has very creative and amusing ways of teaching his students, which results in some of the film’s funniest moments. Although he’s an exceptional ninja master, he does sometimes point out that he’s an old man, which is a great idea that leads to some funny jokes. Garmadon makes for a really humorous protagonist. It’s hilarious, albeit sad, how much of a deadbeat dad he is, even to the point of always mispronouncing his son’s name. Sadly, the main ninjas aren’t very compelling characters. They’re given funny lines to say every now and then, but they don’t have much when it comes to personality or charisma.

The film is a mixed bag with its humor. Both “The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Batman Movie” had the advantage of containing plenty of source material to develop clever jokes and puns, alongside the witty dialogue between the characters. “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” could have easily poked fun at some of the many clichés found in most ninja films, but unfortunately doesn’t follow that strategy. Still, even without the pop cultural references, the humor could still work if the writing was good enough.

Honestly, it feels like the film was written by two groups of writers. This is mainly because the film goes back and forth between actual funny dialogue between the characters and lazy, if not childish, humor. There are very funny scenes with Garmagadon, Lloyd and Master Wu, but there’s also a butt-dial or “new phone who dis” joke. If the script was given a revision, perhaps the film would have been better. As is, there is an unfortunate amount of cringe-inducing jokes, but it at least has just enough good humor to make the film tolerable to anyone over the age of seven.

Though it’s still a competently made film, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is a step backwards from the previous Lego films. Kids will no doubt enjoy the visuals and the majority of the humor, but adults will only get some enjoyment from a few of the smarter comedic moments. It’s not the best animated film of the year, but it’s not as underwhelming as other animated features like “The Boss Baby” or “Cars 3.” If anything, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is worth seeing at least once.