Review: The Lego Ninjago Movie

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: One of the troubles of living in Ninjago City is the constant attacks from a devious, yet dim, master villain. In order to stop his evil reign, it is up to six young ninjas to fight back and keep their home out of the evil Garmadon’s control. And it's a whole lot more funny than that sounds.

REVIEW: Crafting a good franchise is tough, especially one that manages to be consistently this good. One such franchise includes the surprisingly clever animated films that are based on the popular children’s building blocks. Had someone claimed that THE LEGO MOVIE would be so successful with critics and audiences that it would span a universe this inspired, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet here we are, and after THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE swooped in and made audiences laugh, we now have THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. This clever send up of Seventies karate flicks and Korean monster movies is something that will delight the young and old. The characters are charming, the story is engaging and the kitten may be one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen on screen all year. More on the cat later.

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Lloyd (Dave Franco) is your average outcast teenager. He is ridiculed and made fun of by his classmates, mostly because his father is an evil villain by the name of Garmadon (Justin Theroux) who has a penchant for destroying everything in sight. This big time baddie loves to bring his dimwit army into the land of Ninjago and try and take over to become ruler of this Lego island home. Yet, unknown to Garmadon, his son is a part of an elite ninja force that fights to keep their city safe. After accidentally unleashing a monstrous beast in Ninjago, Lloyd and his ninja pals must work with their trainer Master Wu (Jackie Chan), as well as the multiple armed big bad in order to stop the purring force that has been released. Will they save Ninjago together? And will Lloyd and his dad finally leave all the past trauma behind? Hey, it’s Lego, anything can happen.

Much like THE LEGO MOVIE, the newest chapter also begins with a live action sequence. This time, it features Jackie Chan speaking to a young boy asking about his curious shop and the secret world of ninjas. It’s a nice touch, but the movie is all about the amazing animation on display, and the brilliant use of live action in the mix. And an inpressive example of that is a large kitten – which apparently was also partially animated. The visuals in this latest effort are absolutely on par with the previous films. Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan – all first time feature film directors – handle the material beautifully. While our screening wasn’t in 3D, there is one sequence involving a the reveal of a secret power that should make for an awesome sight blasting directly into the audiences lap.

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The ensemble cast is especially well chosen. Dave Franco leads the comedic force as Lloyd, the awkward son of a villain that has a secret ninja identity. The rest of the superhero team include Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Abbi Jacobson, Fred Armisen and a scene-stealing Zach Woods who all add solid support. The chemistry between the cast is perfect. Yet the real stand out is Justin Theroux as an overly confidant, albeit dense, master villain. When the team must partner up with their enemy, it makes for some wonderfully witty and unforgettable comedic moments. It’s a real credit to the actors involved and a smart screenplay that this movie works as well as it does. And while there are Lego buildings collapsing, and a giant cat terrorizing the town, the action is always enjoyable and never too vicious in case you want to bring the young ones.

As much fun as THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE can be, there are moments where the hour and forty minute runtime drags slightly. This is especially true early on. As much as I loved the relationship between Lloyd and his father – who cannot say his son’s name properly if his life depended on it – the back and forth between them can be slightly repetitive. You could probably cut about five to ten minutes and have an even stronger, and shorter, feature. That said, it is a minor gripe because by the end, you’ll be fully invested. One other minor issue is the fact that the music is slightly more generic this time around. It would have been refreshing to hear a little bit of “Everything Is Awesome” by Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island blast from some radio station somewhere.

The Lego Universe is shaping up to be one of the brightest and best when it comes to animated feature films. THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE may not be quite as perfectly built as the first two, but it is a terrific adventure with a ton of laughs and a magnificent villain courtesy of Justin Theroux. The cast also features the lovely Olivia Munn, the incredibly funny Randall Park and a number of other very talented actors gathered together to embrace their inner Lego love. If only the film was a tad shorter and featured a memorable song or two, it could have been damn near perfect. Either way, if you are a fan of the last two films, you will certainly find something to love here. And again with that cat. That is seriously one of the most creative uses of an animal in film I’ve ever seen. THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE is yet anther impressive entry in the Lego Universe and one that is well worth visiting at the local cineplex.


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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.