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September 2018

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game

Platform(s): Movie, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Sept. 22, 2017


Movie Review - 'The LEGO Ninjago Movie'

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 22, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Lloyd and his friends are secret ninja warriors who are led by Master Wu. They must defeat evil warlord Garmadon in the battle for Ninjago City.

"The LEGO Movie" was a surprise hit when it debuted in theaters three years ago, not because of the quality of the animation (which was top-notch), but because of the superb writing and excellent story. "The LEGO Batman Movie" was a noticeable step down from the first. Sure, it looked good, but the script couldn't hold a candle to the first film. "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" lands somewhere in between the two, maintaining the quality visuals and providing a better story than "The LEGO Batman Movie," but still falling short of the original outing.

Framed by a live-action sequence featuring Jackie Chan as a kindly shop owner helping a bullied child, "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" is a story about looking inside yourself and finding value in who you are, not what others want you to be. It's a great theme for a family film, but the script never really pushes the emotional boundaries that it could, which is the film's biggest miss. Instead, it just scratches the surface and plays things safe when they could've knocked it out of the park.

Unlike the prior films, which used known franchises, "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" uses a LEGO original character set. There have been Ninjago cartoons and playsets available for a few years, so kids should be familiar with the property, even if parents are not.

The world of Ninjago is a mishmash of Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures, with a bit of American flair thrown in for good measure. For overall style, Ninjago would fit right in with the aesthetic of "Big Hero 6," though Disney's film is the better movie when compared side by side.

In addition to the live-action scenes, Chan serves as the voice of Master Wu, sensei to the teenager heroes and author of self-help books. Chan obviously had fun with the role, as Wu is one of the stand-out characters in the film and easily eclipses the main characters.

Chan's role in the film wasn't limited to acting. He is also credited with fight choreography, and it shows. Some of the animated combat looks like something straight out of "Power Rangers," while other bits could be lifted from one of Chan's own live action films.

The other scene-stealer in the film was also of the live action variety, if not the human one. A pet cat, dubbed Meowthra (a nod to the Godzilla franchise), wreaks havoc in Ninjago City after she is summoned by the Ultimate Weapon (a laser pointer). Meowthra isn't integral to the story; she's just the outside threat that serves as motivation for the team, but there is a cute dichotomy as she tears through the town. As viewers, we see a kitty having fun and pouncing on things, while the characters are fleeing in abject terror.

This bring us back to where "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" falls short. While the Meowthra scenes work on two levels, much of the film doesn't. There are short flashes of self-awareness and pointed commentary, such as when Nya (Abbi Jacobson) points out that women are just as capable as men in a fight montage, but the bulk of the movie fails to capitalize on those points. Instead of an hour-and-a-half of wit, you get 15 minutes of great dialogue, with the rest feeling more like the "Ninjago" TV show with much better production values.

In the end, if you just want to enjoy seeing LEGO characters run around on the big screen, "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" is a fun, if shallow, follow-up to "The LEGO Movie." Kids will love it; adult fans will wish Lord and Miller had more direct involvement.

Score: 7.0/10

"The LEGO Ninjago Movie" is rated PG and has a running time of 1 hour and 41 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D.

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