The LEGO Ninjago Movie: Film Review
Vocal cast: Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Fred Armisen, Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani, Justin Theroux
Director: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher
Those unfamiliar with the Lego Ninjago World aren't likely to be too left behind with this film that pushes the blocky zaniness as much as it pushes the paternal message.
While the Lego movie and Lego Batman movie concentrated largely on the zanier antics, this latest follows the Ninjago team as they continue to fight Lord Garmadon (Theroux) who's determined to conquer their metropolis.
Standing in their way of doing this though, is Lloyd (Franco), aka the Green Ninja, whose life has been ruined by Garmadon in more ways than one - because Garmadon is his father.
When the threat becomes too real, Lloyd, along with fellow ninjas and their grand Master Wu (Jackie Chan) are forced on a quest to try and save the city from the ultimate weapon.
Whereas the prior Lego movies have offered strong stories with doses of zaniness, it has to be said The LEGO Ninjago Movie doesn't differ too much from the formula, treads a lot of familiar ground and consequently does offer up a film of diminishing returns, feeling like the weaker of the recent releases in terms of story ideas, but not pace.
That's not to say its target youngster audience won't enjoy the story and the animation, but the attempts to shoehorn in the message veer dangerously close to brow-beating and crowbarring it in as the film heads towards its conclusion.
The story-within-a-story premise works well and Chan's certainly got the heart to carry it off, but in between the humiliations for Lloyd as he deals with his past and the fact everyone knows his dad is the Worst Guy Ever, there's a feeling perhaps that some of the story's nowhere near as strong as it could be to carry the film through its run time.
Elements of Joe Vs The Volcano creep in toward the end as the sentimental starts to edge in, and the meta touches this time around are kept to a minimum, giving the feeling the film is overall fine, but lacks some of the edge that was pioneered by 2014's Lego Movie under the helmsmanship of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
With school holidays on the way, it's not that The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a weaker prospect at all, merely a feeling that adults in the audience may feel a little restless while the younger ones enjoy what's transpiring. L-loyd (as his father continually refers to him as) needs to bring a few more l-laughs to the table for the film to have been able to hit all levels.
There's nothing inherently wrong with The LEGO Ninjago Movie, it offers solid blocks of fun here and there and the dad bonding message is a good one to hammer home.
But it has to be said, despite the strong single narrative of Lloyd and his dad Garmadon and when compared to previous blocky outings, it feels like there's unfortunately little else fleshing out the story to make it a truly transcendant experience.