Ev­ery­thing is not quite awe­some

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE ★★★

Di­rected by Char­lie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Lo­gan. Star­ring Dave Franco, Justin Th­er­oux, Fred Ar­misen, Abbi Ja­cob­son, Olivia Munn, Ku­mail Nan­jiani, Michael Peña, Zach Woods, Jackie Chan. Cert G, gen re­lease, 101mins

A boy wan­ders into the kind of relic store where one might un­wisely pur­chase a mog­wai. The pro­pri­etor, Mr Liu (Jackie Chan), pro­ceeds to re­gale the wide-eyed raga­muf­fin with the leg­end of Ninjago, that an­cient line of Lego merch (launched in 2011), com­pris­ing nin­jas, dragons and mecha thin­gies.

Gather round. The great trade­marked metropo­lis of Ninjago is rou­tinely at­tacked by the mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal Lord Gar­madon (Justin Th­er­oux) and his many dis­pos­able gen­er­als. That’s bad news for Lloyd (Dave Franco), Gar­madon’s es­tranged son, an un­der­stand­ably un­pop­u­lar high-schooler (“His dad ru­ins ev­ery­thing,” hisses a class­mate).

If only his peers and de­trac­tors knew that Lloyd was part of the se­cret ninja force who fend off Gar­madon on a daily ba­sis.

If only Gar­madon could be a bet­ter dad. “You ru­ined my life,” cries Lloyd. “That’s not true,” comes the re­tort, “I haven’t even been a part of your life; how could I ruin it? I wasn’t even there.” And so on.

This mon­ster-sized fa­mil­ial dis­cord fi­nally un­leashes the mon­ster-sized Me­owthra, the ul­ti­mate city-de­stroy­ing weapon, leav­ing the nin­jas to re­group un­der the tute­lage of Master Wu (Chan, again).

Ar­riv­ing only months af­ter Lego Bat­man, The Lego Ninjago Movie’s un­spec­tac­u­lar US box of­fice haul sug­gests that there’s sim­ply not enough brick-love to go around. Bad tim­ing aside, the third of the hith­erto ex­cel­lent Lego movies se­quence is the weak­est to date.

The comic premise, which roundly and rightly mocks Hol­ly­wood’s ap­par­ently end­less ap­petite for ac­tion he­roes nurs­ing Oedi­pal crises, is promis­ing, and al­lows for a ter­rific nod to The Em­pire Strikes Back. The voice cast – spe­cial shout-out to Th­er­oux’s black-clad vil­lain – are note­per­fect. The Lego is as­sem­bled into pleas­ingly in­ven­tive forms: who doesn’t want to see fly­ing mecha sharks?

There are some good lines. “I mean, my mom is weird, and col­lects seashells,” Lloyd’s fel­low ninja re­as­sures him. “Your dad lev­els cities and at­tacks in­no­cent peo­ple, so, they’ve all got their quirks.”

But there are also some of the over­cooked scorch marks one might ex­pect from a de­layed project with three di­rec­tors and eight cred­ited writ­ers at­tached. Lego Bat­man im­proves with re­peated view­ings; Lego Ninjago, con­versely, can’t sus­tain its cen­tral joke over an over­long 101 min­utes. Ev­ery­thing is not quite awe­some.

Daddy don’t care: Lloyd (Dave Franco) in The Lego Ninjago Movie

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