The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The LEGO Ninjago Movie

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the second feature based on the popular building bricks this year -- following The LEGO Batman Movie and the third overall. The toys weren't obvious choices to receive big-screen treatment, but The LEGO Movie proved that they contained the potential for magic. Whereas the original created a whole new world and the second one put a fresh spin on the Dark Knight, LEGO Ninjago has a slightly more limited focus, as it puts front and center a character line many adults will be less familiar with than kids. There's still fun to be had, just not as much as previously.

Dave Franco provides the voice of high school student Lloyd. He's not very popular because his father is Garmadon (Justin Theroux), a mega-villain who repeatedly terrorizes the LEGO city in which he lives. Lloyd often laments his dad's absence in his life, wishing that he could somehow find a way to earn a little paternal love. Garmadon has no interest in that, though, much preferring to carry on his reign of terror.

Lloyd is secretly a member of the Ninjago, a crew of teen ninjas that also includes Cole (Fred Armisen), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), Kai (Michael Pena), Nya (Abbi Jacobson), and Zane (Zach Woods). Under the guidance of leader Master Wu (Jackie Chan), they band together to take Garmadon down, which provides a convenient excuse for Lloyd to finally confront his father.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie isn't quite as joke-packed as its predecessors, although it offers plenty of laughs nonetheless. Some of them are wonderful moments of extreme silliness, most notably a recurring bit in which a real cat invades the LEGO city. A few are oddly, appealingly esoteric. (There's a gag about the Tom Hardy movie Locke, for instance.) Other times, it's the line readings from the comic cast that elicit chuckles.

Underneath the humor is a surprisingly touching story about a boy who feels abandoned by the father too clueless and callous to recognize how much emotional damage he has inflicted. This being a family picture, you can doubtlessly guess how the plot resolves itself. Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that The LEGO Ninjago Movie supplements its comedy with a touch of depth.

The animation, as with the two previous entries, is excellent, creating a LEGO world that comes vividly to life. (Halfway through the movie, my eight-year-old son leaned over and told me that he wanted to buy some LEGO sets connected to the film, so mission accomplished, I guess.) Every second is packed with visual detail that's pleasurable to look at.

A few parts of The LEGO Ninjago Movie movie are a bit talky, which may cause some kids' attention to wander. Despite that and a lower joke-per-minute ratio, the great cast, beautiful animation, and overall dedication to playfulness provide enough pure entertainment value to give families a good time.

( out of four)

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.

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