While waiting in line for The LEGO NINJAGO® Movie, I saw children running around screaming, hyped out of their minds. A few clung to their mothers and quietly ordered their popcorn. It was a sea of youthful emotions coming together to watch The LEGO NINJAGO® Movie at 7 p.m. on a Saturday. I was the only adult there without a kid, and I was more than slightly embarrassed.
Fortunately, the awkward situation I found myself in reminded me that this is a kids’ movie. I, a university student who takes film far too seriously, am not the intended audience. I could go on and on about the questionable artistic validity of a movie based off of a toy line without any established canon or cast, but the fact remains that this movie doesn’t care about me. It was made for the kids.
So, what did those kids think of The LEGO NINJAGO® Movie? The film elicited a few laughs from the kids that I could hear, but the theatre was incredibly noisy, so perhaps the rest were drowned out. Afterwards I heard several groups of children excitedly stammering out praise and awe, so I’m fairly sure that the film plays well with kids. Score one for The LEGO NINJAGO® Movie!
And that’s not all. I’m pleased to say that I, A Real Life Adult (technically), enjoyed The LEGO NINJAGO® Movie. It’s not great, but it’s surprisingly heartfelt. The narrative focuses on Lloyd, a super insecure ninja (voiced by Dave Franco) and his absentee father Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), a totally evil warlord who fights ninjas on the daily. The film wisely spotlights their relationship, and even includes a few sincere moments of reflection on how our parents affect us.
Besides the two leads, the rest of the voice cast is fine, but no one really has a moment to shine. This is unfortunate as the supporting cast includes Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani and Jackie Chan. They all do a great job with their respective roles, but the film struggles to give them time to stand out. The main issue this movie faces is the pacing. The first act is a visually noisy splatterfest of cartoon nonsense which never pauses. Unfortunately this prevents the film from giving us any time to know the supporting cast beyond a brief introduction.
Visually, the film is cluttered and colourful, which often works to the film’s benefit, except for in those messy opening minutes. Once the film moves into the third act, it calms down and allows the colourful environments and settings to really shine. The sheer variety of locations keeps things visually dynamic and engaging.
Additionally, the pacing tightens up in the second act, which gives us a solid final hour of character work that elevates the rest of the film above the messy start. The ending is good, but rushed. I could have gone for an extra five minutes of ending, which just goes to show how invested I was in Lloyd.
Overall, the kids loved it and I liked it. Good on you, The LEGO NINJAGO® Movie.