I’m 6’2”. I’m 24 years old. And I have a full face of hair. (One of those isn’t quite like the others – I have one hair on my chin, and that’s ingrown.) And yet – in spite of all of that – I’m the biggest man child this side of the equator. If I don’t giggle at a fart joke, you may as well euthanize me now.
Therefore, you can imagine my giddy squealing when I was sent The LEGO NINJAGO Movie on Blu-ray. I adored The LEGO Movie – a full-length feature film boasting an all-star cast, which not only amused, but rekindled childhood memories. I was astonished by The LEGO Batman Movie – a joke-a-minute romp which parodied some of the greatest moments in the caped crusader’s history. And then there was The LEGO NINJAGO Movie, which… Y’know, was there.
The problem with The LEGO NINJAGO Movie is that this one does feel like an advert to sell toys. Both of its predecessors were movies first; the LEGO sets, pencil cases and lunchboxes followed after. Whereas with The LEGO NINJAGO Movie had already established itself with the toy range – as well as a television show – before becoming a 90-minute-long commercial.
That’s not to say that’s it’s not enjoyable; children will find it fun, being an action-packed picture with some impressive action – like it was directed by a pre-pubescent Michael Bay. There’s also something so oddly satisfying about seeing a kitten destroy towns a la Godzilla. But The LEGO NINJAGO Movie didn’t have the same warmth as the other bricked blockbusters.
Set in the fictional world of Ninjago – a plastic version of Japan – we’re introduced to Lloyd (Dave Franco) who’s a bit of an out-cast… Because his father is the evil overlord, Garmadon. I related to Lloyd – I was bullied at school too, because of my Dad. He wasn’t constantly trying to take over the city; he just kept throwing empty beer cans at pigeons, and people found it disturbing. Despite being rejected by all of the students at school, they adore him when he’s disguised as his alter ego, Green Ninja; a warrior who – along with the help of the other ninjas (and Lloyd’s only friends at school) – constantly defeat Garmadon’s plans to rule Ninjago.
The LEGO NINJAGO Movie has – like the following two movies – a very powerful cast. Joining Dave Franco are some comedy heavyweights, including Jackie Chan as Lloyd’s tutor, Master Wu, Justin Theroux as Garmadon and Kumail Nanjiani as Jay, another ninja. There’s also some other hugely talented cast members, including Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Abbi Jacobson and Zach Woods, but they have such few lines, despite being hyped up before the movie’s release, that they’re barely noticeable. According to a press release I received, Michael Peńa’s character, Kai, was the sibling of Abbi Jacobson’s Nya. I had to inform you here, because chances are – if you’ve seen The LEGO NINJAGO Movie – you probably didn’t get that. Zach Woods plays Zane, a part-man, part-cyborg character, known as a Nindroid, but there’s no reason for it other than the fact there’s one thing that sells more than sex, and that’s yellow Terminators, right?
If that wasn’t confusing enough, the ninjas, who have been painfully trained for thousands of years to use their stealthy-abilities to take down their enemies with nothing but their hands, now have… Giant fucking mechanical robots, which they board and control, to defeat bad guys. Why? Oh, so they can sell those as toys too. That’s it. After all, the mechs are all destroyed and rendered useless within the first act.
The saving-grace of the film is undoubtedly Justin Theroux. The negligent (and also borderline psychotic) father of Lloyd, Garmadon is a welcome addition to the LEGO universe. He accidentally calls his son on his birthday, only to apologise for “butt-dialling” him and immediately hangs up; he can’t even pronounce his own son’s name – insisting it’s said as “L-loyd”. As Garmadon warms to his son, there’s laugh out loud moments, as he attempts to teach Lloyd to throw and catch* (like anyone who has seen a godawful movie from the 80s will tell you, that’s what a father does) set to the music of INSERT THROWING SONG HERE.
* Don’t worry – my father taught me how to throw too. I just – unfortunately – had to learn by throwing his used cans of Fosters at nearby pigeons.
There’s some nice moments in The LEGO NINJAGO Movie; a highlight is Garmadon donning a shirt and tie to blend in with everyone else – but without the creativity of The LEGO Movie, or the hilarity of The LEGO Batman Movie, this just pales in comparison. Everything is not awesome. (And I will forever thank The LEGO Movie for giving me that song, just so I can refer to it when I want to make scathing reviews on the LEGO property.)
Still, at least something excellent came out of The LEGO NINJAGO Movie; I was weirdly aroused by the filter they released…