In advance of the release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, we’re taking a look back at the other films in the Lego Franchise. Today we dive into 2017’s The Lego Ninjago Movie.
After the success of The Lego Movie, Warner Brothers quickly greenlit and fast tracked The Lego Batman Movie, as well as The Lego Ninjago Movie. Lego had already found success with the Ninjago franchise through various playsets, a book series, and a popular animated series on Cartoon Network. The film version took some of the characters and elements of the TV show, but it acts as a separate entity entirely. Although directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan, with a cast that includes Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, and Olivia Munn, the film is definitely a major step down from the original Lego Movie.
The Lego Ninjago Movie feels as if the team behind the film looked at elements of the Ninjago TV show and The Lego Movie, picked out what they thought worked, threw it in a blender, poured the mess onto a computer, and called it a movie. The real-world aspects of the original film are used to bring us into the Ninjago world. The film uses characters in name and design. There are jokes that play on being able to make a film out of a Lego world. There are some weak puns and jokes that feel way too obvious and never in a good way. There’s a wise, older mentor figure who seems to die but is still… sort of alive?
Almost every aspect of this film feels like a watered-down version of The Lego Movie. The film finally begins to break away from elements that are weak copies of The Lego Movie in the third act, but it’s almost too little too late. There are plenty of films that were obvious cash grabs by studios to make money off of potential toy sales, but this almost feels like the antithesis of that. It’s as if Lego said, “Let’s take a successful toy line and create a film that will make kids and parents not care about it at all.” The film probably could have been salvaged if more time had been devoted to development, but Lego and WB put more energy into The Lego Batman Movie and rushed Ninjago so that they could keep audiences interested in the films. . However, that will only work if the films are quality material.
Somewhere deep within The Lego Ninjago Movie there is a good film, one that involves a story of family, learning to find your strength from within, and is guided by a cool story about Ninjas. But sadly, this Ninjago Movie isn’t that film.
(Also of note, my 4-year-old son Walter, who can watch The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie ALL DAY on repeat, has no interest in watching Ninjago a second time. That should tell you something.)
The Lego Ninjago Movie is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital and is streaming on HBO VOD services.
Below is a special feature from the DVD release of the first Lego Movie. It pretty much sums things up.