By Hunter Johnson
Since the release of “The LEGO Movie,” audiences have maintained their love of the film’s nearly perfect mixture of charm and seriousness. After that, audiences showed up yet again and praised “The LEGO Batman Movie” for its fantastic combination of pure laughter and important family messages. Now, the third installment in the LEGO universe has been released and audiences will soon realize that this one, despite its moments of greatness, inevitably could not hold up to the standards set by the previous films.
The story follows a group of ninjas, Nya, Kai, Jay, Cole, Zane, (Abbi Jacobson, Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Fred Armisen, Zach Woods,) and their Master Wu (played by the amazing Jackie Chan) as they defend their city of Ninjago against the evil Lord Garmadon.
But that’s not the main plot. Early in the movie, it’s realized that the real story is about how the lead ninja, Lloyd (played suitably by Dave Franco,) must deal with the fact that Lord Garmadon (hilariously played by Justin Theroux,) is his father.
This is where the film shines. Lloyd and Garmadon’s relationship holds the plot together.
This is what the LEGO movies have been best at: They create characters that the audiences genuinely care for and relate to—an impressive feat, considering everyone is made of plastic.
“The LEGO Movie” created a memorable character in Emmet, a simple construction worker who demonstrated how everyone has a contribution to the world. “The LEGO Batman Movie” took the known character of Batman and turned him into a lonely guy who needs to accept that he really does have a family.
“The LEGO Ninjago Movie” also succeeds on this front. It has created a character (Lloyd) who, while wearing the mask of a ninja, is really just a guy who wants his father to love him.
But here’s the issue: throughout the film there are recurring cycles of Lloyd and Garmadon having heart-to-heart conversations with each other, followed immediately by a stupid joke. Then it would start all over again. A deep, heartfelt conversation followed by some wisecrack, like an ironic pun about LEGOs being able to talk and move around. The emotional depth of the movie is hampered by too many silly jokes.
Despite the well-constructed characters and emotional plot, the film is a mess. It tries so hard to be just as funny and just as dramatic as the previous two installments, that it forgets to be its own film.
Because of this, it tends to simply not be funny. The movie is a comedy; there’s no doubt about it. But the clever wittiness of the previous LEGO films has been replaced with childish humor and self-aware LEGO puns. The humor repeatedly falls flat with maybe one in ten jokes actually inducing laughter in the audience.
The creators were clearly worried that the interesting and emotional storyline wouldn’t be enough to hold viewers, so they filled the rest of the film with nonsensical, almost “Transformers”—like action sequences, and unfunny humor. This unnecessary filler takes what could’ve been an excellent addition to the LEGO franchise and turns it into a good, but mostly forgettable one.
All in all, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is a fun film that gets bogged down by its simple humor and pointless action. But because of its message about the relationship between fathers and sons and how a child’s life can be affected when a parent isn’t present in their life, “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is still a win.
Hunter Johnson is a freshman theatre major and an arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. He spends his time acting on stage, reading and watching Star Wars, and occasionally doing homework.