Some of the same dudes behind The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie bring another LEGO video game/toy line to hilarious life.
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NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: Some of the same dudes behind The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie bring another LEGO video game/toy line to hilarious life as a group of high-school pals parading as individually-colored/powered ninja warriors with giant mechs defends Ninjago City against the evil dad of one of their teammates while learning lessons from ninja master Jackie Chan.
Written by (brace yourself): Bob Logan & Paul Fisher & William & Tom Wheeler and Jaren Stern & John Whittington, with story by Hilary Winston & Bob Logan & Paul Fisher & William & Tom Wheeler and Dan & Kevin Hageman (whew!). Directed by Charlie Bean & Paul Fisher & Bob Logan. (Talk about a group effort!)
- Good characters. Martial arts/action-flick legend Jackie Chan (also shown in a live-action intro and wrap-up) is a perfect “ancient” Master Wu, full of both wisdom and silly quips. The ninja kids, Neighbors’ Dave Franco (bro of James), SNL’s Fred Armisen, Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani, C.H.I.P.S-remake’s Michael Peña, Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson, X-Men’s Olivia Munn and The (U.S. Version) Office’s Zach Woods all combine well for a comedic stew of element-based goofballs and fighters. Big baddy (and “Green Ninja” Lloyd’s pop) Garmadon (The Leftovers’ Justin Theroux) nails it as a clueless deadbeat Dad/ruthless villain with heavy Batman-like voice.
- Of course, the animation is as top-notch as the previous two LEGO installments. This time, though, I swear there are more close-ups where you really notice the texture of the toy parts [MIKE: known as “surfacing” in animation] and how “real” they are, like they were shot using real toys with painted faces. The gags and fight scenes are inventive and really well done. (The bridge battle between Garmadon and Wu, though too-fast to follow, is brilliantly done and a blast to watch more than once.)
- The story, though simple, is good. A lot of family baggage and relationship stuff that doesn’t get too preachy but has an overall positive message.
- Watch out for Meowthra, the giant “six-toed fluffy demon” who steals every scene he’s in. Lots of action, battles and elemental explosions.
- Nice mix of humor for parents as well as kids. (Not in theme but it wordplay and references; f’r instance, Master Wu plays “It’s A Hard-Knock Life” and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle” on his flute.)
- Quick, usually-funny (and always clean) dialog and situations. Since the whole LEGO novelty’s worn off, this has to rely on the gags and such actually being humorous, and most come off well.
- Given that some the gags, like the original LEGO Movie, break the “fourth wall,” some film-goers will think it’s too silly/absurd/stupid/goofy. Critics will probably hate it because it doesn’t take itself seriously. (Newsflash: it’s a comedy!)
- There are probably more slow parts than the previous two flicks, and those unfamiliar with the Ninjago game or animated TV series (as I am) may feel like they’re missing something, “coming in late,” or may not fully appreciate some of the gags.
- Those kids and immature adults entertained by popular bodily-function/gross-out gags will be disappointed. This one, like all LEGO flicks, doesn’t need that kind of stuff.
- Crying flames must hurt! (But sure looks funny.)
- The funny bride & groom gag (and much of the father/son exchange) in the trailers is not in the movie at all.
- Couple plot-holes and things that may not make much sense.
- There’s an end button at the main credits, but nothing at the very end. Bummer.
I have never played any LEGO video games that this and the other flicks are based on, and I haven’t built anything with the toys since I was a kid and all they had were squares, rectangles and a couple tiny round pieces. (The only figures you could build then were crude, hard-edged robot things.) But I have laughed my butt off at all three of these, so I think you will too! The giant cat sealed the deal for sure, but Chan and Garmadon and the dialog set it all up.
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DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by Bru-Hed are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, Ninjago City, LEGOtown, giant cats, Asian masters, four-armed warlords or animated toy characters. Bru-Hed would definitely be Beer Ninja.