The LEGO NINJAGO Movie is not what it appears; it's better.
On the surface, skeptics will say this is a film was being made as a cash-grab, especially following the success of The LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman. Fortunately, this could not be further from the truth, as Warner Bros. once again proves that the LEGO franchise is a creative and heartfelt force to be reckoned with.
The movie features an all-star vocal cast of Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux, Fred Armison, Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Zack Woods, and Abbi Jacobson. It tells the story of a teenager named Lloyd, who leads a team of ninjas against the evil Garmadon. To make things interesting, Garmadon also happens to be Lloyd's father, and everybody in Ninjago knows it.
For fans of the formula, yes, just like The LEGO Movie did, NINJAGO ties in elements of the real world, pop culture with the LEGO universe.
As for the plot, Jackie Chan starts things off by telling the story of The Green Ninja to a young boy that happens upon his shop. I should stop being so surprised at how charming Chan is in these family roles, because he never fails to impress; while only on screen for a few minutes, the legendary actor will have you giggling with every line or gesture.
Once the animation sets in, Chan is surrounded by a talented ensemble that brings to life a story of characters you've never heard of. Unlike the first two LEGO outings, Ninjago didn't have the luxury of utilizing popular franchises like DC Comics or Harry Potter. Instead, these lesser-known Ninjago characters have to earn each and every laugh, something that they pull off flawlessly throughout the entire film.
Franco is the centerpiece of the team, and he's great for the role. However, it's the supporting characters that really make the movie something special. Pena, Woods, and Nanjiani stand out as the brightest spots in the cast, with the trio often stealing the show with their one-liners. It will undoubtedly go under-appreciated, but The LEGO Ninjago Movie boasts one of the better voice casts in recent memory.
On the surface, the story of this film isn't overly original. Lloyd's dad is evil, he has to stop him to save the world, and they can hopefully bond as father-and-son along the way. Fortunately, Ninjago is able to bring forth some of that LEGO charm, and take things off the rails just enough to be charming. It's more than enough to help this story stand on its own, escaping many of the tug-at-your-heart tropes that plague most animated movies.
While it might be a small step down from the first two installments in the LEGO franchise, Ninjago is a fun adventure that both adults and children will enjoy.
In a year full of subpar animated films, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a laugh-filled delight that you won't want to miss.
Official Score: 4/5 Stars
The LEGO Ninjago Movie hits theaters on Friday, September 22nd.
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