Lloyd (Dave Franco) and his friends are outcasts at school with nobody knowing their secret, alter identities as a band of ninjas who regularly fight against the evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) to protect the city of Ninjago. Lloyd gets a particularly hard time as he is Garmadon’s son. One day, Ninjago is attacked by a new force - if the ninja team are to have any hope of defeating it, they must complete their training under Master Wu (Jackie Chan) and journey to find the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon.
The first scene of The Lego Ninjago Movie sees a young boy wander into a relic shop owned by Mr. Liu, played by Jackie Chan. When the kid seems dissatisfied with his old Lego figurine, whose face is worn and arm is missing, Liu shows him a shiny, new, ninja Lego figurine – and so the merchandising and advertising begins.
From here, Liu tells the child the story of Ninjago and we become reacquainted with the Lego movie franchise’s animation style and sense of humour, which was previously established in 2014’s The Lego Movie and this year’s The Lego Batman Movie. Unfortunately, the film departs much from its predecessors in terms of the quality of story, script, humour and heart.
The first action sequence isn’t all that different from what we’ve seen in the previous Lego Movies and has something of a Transformers feel. More frustrating though than its lack of inspiration in set pieces such as this, is the lack of actual ‘ninja’ action promised by the title (in fact, I was sitting next to a child in the cinema who exasperatedly cried out ‘Finally!’ when the first ninja action scene took place almost an hour into the film). Thus, the film doesn’t integrate the concept it promises as Lego Batman did so expertly in its parodying of the Caped Crusader.
The Lego Ninjago Movie feels not only lazy, essentially recycling the same tied and tested jokes and quirks of the previous Lego movies, but rushed. It’s worth bearing in mind that it hasn’t even been a year since the release of The Lego Batman Movie, and this in comparison feels half-hearted, relying on a lazy Star Wars-esque father-son dynamic to pull on the heart strings. As well as an anti-climactic ending, the script feels unbalanced, with its impressive supporting cast members (including Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Abbi Jacobson and Zach Woods) only getting a few lines each.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments and the animation has its appeal, but overall, The Lego Ninjago Movie feels like a sloppy attempt to reap the same success as the other Lego Movies with less of the effort.