“Lego Ninjago Movie” can’t put the pieces together

Out in theatres right now, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is the third LEGO Movie film to capture audiences since 2014.

Based upon the LEGO Ninjago franchise, the animated comedy tells the story of six teenagers who secretly fight crime as ninjas in the city of Ninjago. However, the core of the story revolves around the ninja’s leader, Lloyd (Dave Franco) and the difficult relationship he has with his villainous father Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux).

While the film fails to compete with its wildly successful predecessors, it’s an enjoyable story with humor that can appeal to both adults and children, and is a great film to see with the whole family.

The most important thing to know about this film is that it retains the fun and enjoyable flavor of the previous LEGO movies. Its writing is witty and intelligent, with a clean sense of humor that’s never obnoxious or immature, and can engage audiences of all ages.

The animation as always is energetic and colorful, fitting with the light and playful tone of the film and providing wonderful visual humor. The subplot of Lloyd and Lord Garmadon’s relationship is a pretty touching story as well, with a good moral and a solid character arc for the main hero and main villain.

Another good thing to note is that while the movie is based off of an existing franchise, it doesn’t rely on expert knowledge of the source material for enjoyment, which was one of the few issues “The LEGO Batman Movie” had. Perhaps knowing the source material makes the story even better, as it does for “LEGO Batman,” but I personally had no problem following the story or understanding its jokes despite not being familiar with the original franchise.

However, there are significant problems with the film, and in my opinion it’s important that viewers try not to compare it with the two brilliantly funny movies that came before it. While the film has plenty of decent jokes and charm, the humor is somewhat lacking when placed alongside the laugh-out-loud comedy and innocent magic found in the first two. Furthermore, while the story is well-written for the most part—especially in terms of Lloyd and his evil father—something is lost in terms of the movie’s supporting characters.

The other five ninja characters and their sensei, Master Wu (Jackie Chan), are all voiced well and are likeable enough, but have little development throughout the film. Lloyd’s story overpowers the plot, and the intense focus on the main hero somewhat diminished my ability to connect with the other characters and their journies.

I also imagine that it may alienate fans of the Ninjago series who are actually attached to those other characters, especially fans of Kai (Michael Peña), one of the central protagonists of the animated series “LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu.”

It’s a real shame when a movie in a series doesn’t live up to the quality or success of its predecessors, but “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is still a decent film that should be appreciated for what it is, and I recommend giving it a watch, especially for fans of the other LEGO movies.

It’s still a touching, innocent story of parental love illustrated with lovely animation, and most importantly, it’s a fun ride with plenty of laughs for any audience.

Film: “The Lego Ninjago Movie”

Starring: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan

Release: Sept. 22

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars