Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen. Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods
Written by: Jared Stern, John Whittington, (also story) Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, (story) Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman
Running Time: 101 mins
Release date: 13th October 2017
Watching The Lego Ninjago Movie, the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ sprung to mind. After the awesomeness of The Lego Movie and the fast-paced Lego Batman Movie, the third entry in this animated series has come at us far too soon and so you cannot help but compare to the previous films. Not saying that this film isn’t funny but the joke is running a little thin.
The island of Ninjago is under attack from an evil warlord called Garmadon. Their only protection is six kids who, by day, struggle with the everyday lives of teenagers but when called upon, they become super Ninja Warriors. One of these kids has a secret identity. Lloyd is the son of Garmadon, so he is hated by everybody, yet no one knows that he is the leader of the warriors and the evil’s most hated enemy.
As with the previous films, a plot is the least of the filmmaker’s worry. What they are more concerned about is firing as many gags as possible while filling the screen with energy and colour. Enough to make you feel giddy and exhausted by the end. Except here, the gags are not as strong as in the previous films and so they have upped the ante when it comes to the visuals.
This film never stops moving. There is always something happening on screen that it is sometimes impossible to work out what is going on. From the insane battles, where the ninjas, driving Transformer-style crafts made to look like creatures, are flying around the city, destroying the endless henchmen of Garmadon to the hand-to-hand combat sequences in the forests as Garmadon comes face-to-face with Master Wu, a wise ninja teacher who may or may not be connected in some way with the villain. It all becomes too much for the eyes to take in.
The humour is as fast as the editing and camerawork, with joke after joke being fired at you from every angle. This was a major problem with the last film: too many jokes delivered at break-neck speed. Where this one falls down slightly is that the jokes aren’t as strong as previously, so most of them fail to hit their targets. Admittedly, when they do score, they score big but you do start noticing the gaps where the jokes should have been this time. One scene, in which one of the characters is talking about his Kung Fu movie collection and we get a montage of the titles, all of which, I am sure, is supposed to be funny but we never get a minute to digest them as they are fired at such a pace, they become nothing but a blur.
The voice talent delivers their performances with gusto and with the energy of a five-year-old who has devoured a bag of sugar. Justin Theroux is particularly fun as Garmadon, while Jackie Chan, who is always good value, gets to be seen on screen in two short live-action sequences at the start and finish of the film, along with a short outtake sequence during the closing credits as well as voicing Master Wu.
The Lego Ninjago Movie isn’t a total disaster. I did laugh several times and it is enjoyable in an in-your-face way. I just think that by rushing these films out in quick succession, they are losing the quality of the jokes and zapping the fun out of them. Maybe we should wait a year of two for the next Lego movie. It could be the filmmakers are afraid we’d forget about them. Not a chance. I still go on about the original Lego Movie. When they are as good as that, we’d never forget.