The Lego Ninjago Movie collapses

After two witty and irreverent Lego movies, the franchise feels like just another product on the shelf

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan). 101 minutes. Opens Friday (September 22). See listing. Rating: NN

The Lego Movie took us by surprise with its witty and irreverent humour, riffing on all the cultural references and nostalgic throwbacks it had at its disposal. Ditto Lego Batman, which had 75 years of material to play with from Bob Kane’s creation.

And now we have The Lego Ninjago Movie, and who can blame you for wondering, “The fuck is a Ninjago?”

Go ask the nearest seven-year-old, the core audience for a Lego set about teen Ninjas and their Power Rangers-like Mechs, introduced in this decade with a tie-in TV series currently streaming on Netflix.

Dave Franco voices the leader, Lloyd, the Green Ninja with daddy issues because his neglectful father happens to be the villainous warlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), who calls his son “La-Loyd.” We get a crash course on who all the players are in an opening act that’s just as busy as previous Lego installments but more exhausting because this time you can’t rely on prior knowledge to get half the gags and understand the lay of the land.

We also begin to see the whole “Lego Movie” formula wear down, like individual blocks so overused that the pieces just aren’t fitting together any more. The plot feels hashed together from previous installments, which themselves were hashed together (tongue-in-cheek) from the pop-culture canon. The humour is still irreverent, but it only amuses in fits and starts a mid-section bit about the “ultimate, ultimate weapon” is the one gag that will score laughs from both kids and their parents.

There’s enough here to amuse the whole family, but we are definitely at the point where a standout franchise is now settling in as just another product on the rack.

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