After two terrific outings, The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, the third animated movie to feature those iconic building blocks doesn’t quite reach the dizzyingly funny heights of its predecessors. An adventure based around the Ninjago toys – think martial arts crossed with Power Rangers – it’s fun but forgettable, an enjoyable diversion for kids that will amuse parents rather than utterly charm them.
Beginning with a live action sequence starring Jackie Chan as an antique shop owner imparting life wisdom on a young boy, the movie then switches to animation to tell us the story of Lloyd (voiced by Franco), a kid mocked by his school mates for being the son of Garmadon (Theroux), the local evil warlord who regularly destroys bits of the city for no apparent reason. What the townsfolk don’t know, however, is that Lloyd may be a meek schoolboy by day, but he’s also secretly a member of a team of ninja warriors along with his pals Kai, Nya, Jay, Cole and Zane, under the tutelage of the wise Master Wu (Chan). It’s up to them to save the day when Garmadon’s latest nefarious plan accidentally leads to monster Meowthra (a playful house cat) being unleashed on Ninjago City.
There are lots of fun action sequences for kids to enjoy, and the action moves briskly along, but there is something missing. While Lloyd is a cute enough character, we don’t get to know much about his fellow ninja warriors, so aren’t very invested in what happens to them. In fact, the character you end up caring about the most (when you’re not going ‘awww’ at the screen whenever kitty Meowthra appears) is actually Garmadon, the clueless dad/villain (“I haven’t even been a part of your life, how could I ruin it? I wasn’t even there!”) because he has all the best lines and the most character development. And thanks to Justin Theoroux’s hilarious vocal performance, he’s the funniest, oddest, and weirdly, most likeable character in the Ninjago universe.
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