Lego Ninjago’s instructions speak for themselves


When will the Wegos begin? I asked my neighbor’s father. I can understand his impatience. There is a live-action prologue with Jackie Chan, a kid, and a cat in a store filled with exotic knickknacks five minutes into “The Lego Ninjago Movie. The helps you to understand the Lego Ninjago film. 

The latest installment of this foolproof franchise was underway as soon as the Wegos awoke. The presentation mixed bold corporate promotion with winking pop-culture cleverness and earnest lesson-learning. It’s not good that the Lego movie has been reduced to an intentionally mediocre level, but it has fallen victim to nearly every other animated big-screen family entertainment.

Despite being directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan, and boasting a script written by 50 writers, The Lego Ninjago Movie adheres sloppily to tropes and images from Asian action cinemas. He also portrays the wise and venerable shopkeeper, as well as the wise and venerable teacher. The young warriors who protect Ninjago from the evil warlord Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux, do not share this belief. These people prefer big, noisy machines over stealth, guile, or swordsmanship.

Garmadon’s regular attacks against the peace and normality are chronicled by the news media, and firing his subordinates is one of his favorite pastimes. Having been estranged from his teenage son Lloyd (Dave Franco), he is mocked and ostracized by him. As the Green Ninja, Lloyd’s alter ego, he works behind the scenes to contain his father’s worst impulses. What does this mean for the political future of cinema? Wouldn’t that be boring?

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Our workload is not as high as we would like. Even though Lego figures have limited movement and expressions, they are rendered with playful rigor. A generic digital-cartoon world than a haphazardly assembled one is closer to the physical environment of the characters. As for the themes they explore, they are tired, cynical sub-Disney bromides about family reconciliation and personal growth.

There is bound to be some mawkish sentiment in a movie this sentimental. It is used in “The Lego Ninjago Movie” in order to freeze action so that Lloyd and Garmadon can resolve their conflict. Whose benefit is it? This unconvincing melodrama won’t captivate children and adults will only be moved by it if they’re hopeless crybabies.

If only in the minds of the committee that drafted this strategy memo disguised as a movie, we want to hear the voices of cool people we see on television. Ms. Jacobson barely surpasses tokenization as the only female member of the six-ninja squad despite being Kumail Nanjiani from “Silicon Valley.” Other guest stars include “Broad City,” “Portlandia,” and “The Big Sick.”

She’s a ninja too! Can she do anything? With a sardonic voiceover, the voiceover mocks the limits of the movie’s imagination. I want you to learn more about where we’re from culturally,’ said the lady ninja. There is a good point there, but the writers and directors – who are mainly men – might take it a little more seriously. Perhaps they did, and we are just at the cultural point where we are now.