“The Lego Ninjago Movie,” directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan, and credited to no less than nine screenwriters (including Fisher and Logan), doesn’t maintain the level of mania that made both “The Lego Movie” and “The Lego Batman Mavie” deliriously fun.
“Ninjago” is inspired by 1970s kung fu and monster movies. The hero, Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), is a forlorn teenager in the seaside city of Ninjago, leading a secret double life as both the maligned son of villain Garmadon (Justin Theroux) and the Green Ninja of the ninja crew that saves the city from Garmadon’s destruction.
Lloyd is a sensitive kid with daddy issues, so he overcompensates. During a battle, he accidentally unleashes a terrifying monster, a furry feline creature named Meow-thra (a live housecat, batting Ninjago around like a ball of yarn). With his posse of ninja buddies, under the guidance of their sensei, Mr. Liu (Jackie Chan), Lloyd sets out to retrieve a special weapon to stop Meow-thra. There’s just one wrinkle — his overbearing blow-hard of an evil dad joins them on the trip.
“Ninjago” maintains the silly and irreverent tone of the prior films, and the ninjas are voiced with great personality by Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Fred Armisen and Michael Pena.
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What doesn’t work is the emotional story between Lloyd and Garmadon as they get to know and accept each other. If the story of your film requires a lot of emotional expression, it might not work best with characters that have flat round plastic heads and painted-on features.
Some aspects of the film are entertaining. Garmadon is a great character, especially as voiced by Theroux (his pronunciation of Lloyd as “Luh-Loyd” never gets old). It’s a light, serviceable romp around the Lego world, but doesn’t come close to the high-key antics of the first two films in the series.
‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’
Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. 1:41. AMC Classic, Fayette, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.