Monday, October 2, 2017

Looking at Movies - The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)

The drive-in season is winding down, but you can still catch first runs on the biggest screens in the area for at least a couple more weekends. My grandson and I decided to venture out and see The LEGO Ninjago Movie last weekend, and it was another surreal LEGO experience. If you have never seen a LEGO movie before, then this might not be the best one to start with. But as LEGO movies go, this one lives up to the reputation of the others, but just barely.

It is really, really hard to describe a LEGO movie to someone who has never seen one before. To be honest, I would have never thought of LEGO doing movies until I started to realize how popular their toy sets have become. I grew up with the LEGOs that came in the big box and had no instructions. You took the various pieces and built whatever your imagination could create. Then you smashed your creations against each other and started all over again. In my neighborhood, a dozen of us or so would gather on someone's porch and combine LEGO sets to spend hours building with LEGOs. Back then, LEGOs were cheap, and we had to use our imagination.

These days, in my opinion, the magic of LEGOs is gone. Everything is now sets of characters, buildings, and ships that must be put together in a pre-determined way. I got into building LEGO sets for a while, but then I got bored with it. There was no imagination to it, which is probably why the LEGO movies got started. The movies are putting a whole new level of imagination back into the LEGO product that I never would have expected, and the movies are funny for adults as well as children.

The LEGO movies are usually a psychedelic collection of weird dialogue, strange plot twists, and multiple movie formats. The movies move back and forth between the real world and the LEGO world, and certain plot points are usually enhanced by montages of nonsensical sounds and images. If it sounds like a lot for a child to process, then you are starting to understand the genius of these movies. They are all done in such a way that, despite all of the jumping around, my four-year-old knew exactly what was going on.

With The LEGO Ninjago Movie, parents and children who are fans of the television series with the same name (without the word "movie," of course) might be a little disappointed to find out that the movie does not follow the television series. Once again, a movie is an adaptation of source material, and that is why the television series and the movie look so different. The movie starts abruptly, and it took me a minute or two to figure out what was going on. Then, when we settle into the LEGO part of the movie, it starts abruptly again. But the movie does at least take the time to explain itself as it moves along, which helps out a lot.

I think that this LEGO movie tries too hard to be a LEGO movie, and the forced jokes are not as funny as the other LEGO movies. It is hard to try and top the LEGO Batman character, which is probably why this movie tries so hard to be funny. The LEGO Ninjago Movie lacks the smooth humor we find in the other two movies, and it is definitely not up to the task of trying to be a follow-up to the LEGO Batman movie. The only real issue I had with this movie is that it just tries too hard to be funny, and it fails in places where it should not.

The movie is fun and can be a nice weekend getaway for you and the kids before the drive-in closes for the season. But don't be surprised if you come away from watching The LEGO Ninjago Movie with a strong desire to pull out your Blu-ray copy of The LEGO Movie or The LEGO Batman Movie to remind yourself of why you found LEGO movies to be funny in the first place.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

George N Root III is a movie fanatic who is dreading the end of the drive-in season. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at