I loved the original "LEGO Movie" and liked "LEGO Batman" a lot, so I definitely walked into this screening with elevated hopes.
I was also pretty familiar with Ninjago, in light of my son’s obsession with the television show a few years back.
FOOD/DRINK BEFORE SCREENING: Bowl of udon and bottle of water
MOOD: Good but a little tired
EXPECTATION OF MOVIE: High
The movie revolves around six teenage ninjas and their wise teacher, Master Wu. The kids are both high school students and secret warriors, distinguished by their specific powers and the colors of their costumes.
Think Power Ranger but, in my mind, a little cooler.
To make matters complicated, the movie’s villain, the evil Lord Garmadon, is also the green ninja’s estranged father.
Like the first movie in the franchise, "LEGO NINJAGO" is self-aware and mocks its own ridiculousness.
I was also once again happily surprised by the animation. It’s colorful and creative and pretty extraordinary when you consider they’re still “building” the virtual sets with animated bricks (more than 12,000,000 were used to create the city and mountains of Ninjago.)
The action sequences are impressive, given that mini-figures can’t bend at the knees or elbows. Jackie Chan also helped choreograph some of the fight scenes, so there’s that.
He also does a good job voicing Master Wu, and playing a “real” character in the film’s bookends.
In general, it’s a cast for the adults in the room – made up of veteran comedians like Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, and Zach Woods. They were given room to improvise and some of the humor is strikingly reminiscent of HBO’s "Silicon Valley."
But the most memorable character was created by Justin Theroux, an amazingly talented actor and writer who is often unfairly recognized solely as Jennifer Aniston’s husband.
He plays Garmadon with a convincing mix of bravado and regret. He’s arrogant and tone deaf. Brash and needy. It’s delightful.
The jokes don’t always land, though, so the script is a little uneven. And there’s a lot going on – namely, the estranged father/son backstory.
There’s some pretty raw dialogue about abandonment and attachment issues, and while the moments were sometimes touching, they seemed a bit heavy given the rest of the film’s premise.
Overall, "The LEGO NINJAGO Movie" didn’t live up to my admittedly high expectations. But, I still enjoyed it! And I recommend going with your kids, or partner, or friends – you’ll want someone to laugh along with.
WHAT IS “HONEST REVIEW”?
I’m a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I interview actors and filmmakers. I’ve worked in broadcast television for 20 years.
I’m also a Seattle wife and mom who works full-time and sits in an hour of traffic (minimum) every day.
Sometimes I’m tired when I screen a movie. Sometimes I’m traveling and I miss my kids. Sometimes I’ve had a glass wine when I should have had a glass of water.
All of these things can impact my reaction to a film. Because I’m human.
So in an effort to write an Honest Review, I’ll always list the external factors that might affect my enjoyment of the movie. Then, I’ll give you my review. Then, you can decide if it’s useful or not.
What do you think of Honest Review or The LEGO NINJAGO Movie? Let me know at @kimholcomb.
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