The LEGO NINJAGO Movie is out now in the USA, ahead of its UK release on October 13. The critical reaction has not been as favourable as the previous two releases in the animated franchise, although the actual LEGO sets it inspired have proven to be excellent. I went to see the film with my family to see what producer Dan lin’s team had in store this time around.
Don’t believe anything the critics are saying – The LEGO NINJAGO Movie is a delight and a worthy instalment in the LEGO movie universe. Both me, and probably more importantly my kids, loved every minute of it.
This film had quite a load to bear. The original LEGO Movie arrived with such low expectations that it was a true surprise when it turned out to be a blockbuster. The LEGO Batman Movie, while riding higher expectations, also had the longstanding star power of the Batman franchise to help. Here we have the LEGO Group seeking to attract audiences of millions with a homegrown IP. Couple that standalone quality with the need to satisfy longtime fans of the show and theme while also attracting new fans who, as the film jokingly references, have never heard of a NINJAGO, and this movie had quite a tall order. It is also needs to sell toys I suppose, but I was already covered in that regards.
I will refrain from laying out heavy points of the film’s plot as I know many readers will not have seen it yet. However, in general terms it sticks with the formula established by its two predecessors. Specifically taking a concept that is important to child development, imagination in the first film and family love/loyalty in The LEGO Batman Movie, and using the world of the brick to explore it in a creative, at times deep, and constantly humorous way. As the previews implied, The LEGO NINJAGO Movie takes on vulnerability and emotion within the context of Garmadon and his son Lloyd’s relationship. The end result is of course predictable, this is a kids’ movie after all, but heart warming enough that it had one of my daughters in tears. ‘I was crying because I was so happy,’ she enthused after the film wrapped.
Humour has been a key element in this franchise from the beginning and that tradition is continued in spades with The LEGO NINJAGO Movie. Like The LEGO Batman Movie before it, this is a film that knows the genre it is in, takes that, and turns it on its head making irreverent fun of it the whole way through. There are plenty of jokes for all ages, but definitely a few reserved for the adults that have seen martial arts and Japanese monster films before. More than a couple times my eldest turned to give me a quizzical look as I burst out laughing to a line she didn’t get at all. However, there were plenty of times that we laughed together.
A complaint levelled by fans at the previous movies, especially The LEGO Batman Movie, was that the sets barely made an appearance in the movie. If that was something that bothered you, then rest assured you will be very satisfied with The LEGO NINJAGO Movie. Some of the sets rise to almost the level of stars in their own right. While scaled down, my hat is off to the designers for so perfectly capturing the essence and look of the on screen vehicles. I can guarantee my kids would be clamouring for more than a few of the theme’s offerings if I didn’t already have the lot. As it is, they disappeared into the basement as soon as we got home with a new appreciation for the pile of sets sitting in my photo studio.
Bottom line – don’t believe a word from the critics. Whether you are a LEGO fan, a NINJAGO fan or just someone with kids, go and see this movie. You will find a lot to love. Well done the LEGO Group and Warner Brothers, you have done it again – please keep them coming.