The Lego Ninjago Movie Voices of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan. Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan. Rated PG. Opens Friday citywide.
In 2014, The Lego Movie was commercially and critically successful because it did something unexpected, building a dense, quick-witted and self-referential story out of what could have been a 100-minute toy commercial. Now three movies into the animated Lego franchise, the once-unexpected has become formulaic, and the pop-culture quips and meta-humor have started to run a bit thin. It doesn’t help that The Lego Ninjago Movie is based on a popular, long-established Lego toy line that has already had its own animated TV series, which necessitates combining serious, mythology-laden existing storylines with the new movies’ joke-heavy, self-aware style.
So the world of Ninjago, in which a Power Rangers-like group of teen heroes protects the title city from maniacal supervillain Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), ends up partially resembling the settings from The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, and main character Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco) goes on a quest to reconnect with his evil (but mostly just misunderstood) father. The movie’s three directors and nine (!) credited writers come up with a handful of clever jokes, but the pastiches of cheesy martial-arts movies aren’t nearly as rewarding as the deep dive into Batman history in Lego Batman. The animation is still gorgeously detailed, and kids will have plenty of fun with the action-packed story (although it drags at times). It’s a well-made 100-minute toy commercial.