Like most, I was skeptical when a movie franchise based off of LEGOs was announced. Then I saw the Lego Movie. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough to be seen as something more than a soulless cash grab. Lego Batman came along in 2016 and set the bar even higher with a witty and fun film for all ages. Now comes Lego Ninjago, a big screen version of the popular line of toys that also happens to be a TV show.
Taking place on the island of Ninjago, this story revolves around six “ninjas” who use giant robots called Mechs to defend the city from the Evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Under the tutelage of ninja master Woo (Jackie Chan), the team consists of macho earth ninja Kai (Michael Pena), humanoid ice wielding robot Zane (Zach Woods), panicky lightning ninja Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), feisty water ninja Nya (Abbi Jacobson) and her obnoxious fire ninja brother Cole (Fred Armison). Leading the team is Lloyd (Dave Franco), a teenage outcast who lives with his mother (Olivia Munn) and just happens to be the son of their arch nemesis.
In many ways, this movie is the epitome of my fears when I first heard about the LEGO movie franchise. Kids who play with LEGOs have a ton of imagination, but that imagination can concoct a ton of random, scatter brained adventures that just don’t translate to a cohesive story. The father/son dynamic between Garmadon and Lloyd that dominates most of the narrative is fine, but all of the sequences that surround them are noisily uncoordinated. From the goofy start, the action in the movie moves like it’s being made up as it goes along. And that may be fine for children, but it’s just annoying to anyone who stopped playing with LEGOs years ago.
There’s no point in most of the characters even being ninjas, as they’re more like members of Voltron or Captain Planet’s Planateers than Power Rangers. Many of the jokes are forced too, with the few comedic moments coming from the villain. By the end, if you haven’t gotten bored, you’ll just be hoping that the creators of this mess can scale it back a bit for the next installment.
FINAL GRADE: D
In case you were unaware, I love Batman. And like most Batman purists, I find enjoyment with every iteration of the character, from the campiness of Adam West’s 1960’s version and the 90’s Joel Schumacher films to the darker Christopher Nolan trilogy and the critically acclaimed animated series. A spinoff of the Lego Movie, Lego Batman combines all of the different incarnations into a fun, family friendly story about a brash, brooding hero whose greatest fear is being part of a family again.
Will Arnett returns as the voice of Lego Batman/Bruce Wayne, a talented but arrogant hero whose prideful life as a loner is turned on its head when new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) starts to steal his thunder. While the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) plans a scheme to take over Gotham City and prove to Batman that he is his one true arch nemesis, the Dark Knight struggles to share his mansion and crime fighting lifestyle with his butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and his adopted son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) who is both skilled and overtly dorky.
Like The Lego Movie, this film is filled with sight gags and enough puns to play a drinking game to if you’re my age. Hilarious easter eggs that hearken back to all of the different incarnations of Batman are enough to please fans while the goofy tone and wholesome message are perfect for families with young children. Each character plays a fun role and the growth experienced by the titular character is arguably the most nuanced of any Batman character on film to date.
The animated film genre has long been one that works best when a film can entertain children and adults alike. Lego Batman manages to encapsulate old fans and young ones with a film that mixes the quirkiness of legos and the action of a comic book film. With loads of cameos and jokes for all ages, Lego Batman is proof that the Dark Knight doesn’t always have to be dark to be entertaining.
FINAL GRADE: A
Been on a bit of a hiatus (It was birthday/Super Bowl season) but did manage to watch a few flicks over the past months. Here are a few quick reviews.
Kevin Hart does what Kevin Hart does. But eventually even that gets stale in this generic buddy cop movie. Most of the laughs seem forced and even the action is too over the top to be entertaining. Wait for it on Redbox. And if you don’t see it at all, you aren’t missing anything special. FINAL GRADE: C-
August: Osage County
A film that defines family dysfunction. Based on the stage play of the same name, August features an all-star cast that all manages to shine in their roles. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are both Oscar worthy as malevolent mother and daughter and though the overall tone and ending may be a bit dreary for some, there should still be enough dark laughs and plot twisting drama to keep you entertained all the way through. FINAL GRADE: A-
That Awkward Moment
A film that takes an awkward, albeit fairly accurate, look into the love lives of the typical young adult male. Zac Efron (High School Musical), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), and Miles Teller (21 and Over) have decent chemistry on screen and create some good laughs. The female leads are all charming enough. Where the film finds fault is in its final act, when it delves into seemingly every romantic comedy cliché imaginable. Still, as far as date movies you might be forced to sit through or might force a guy to sit through go, you could do worse than this one. FINAL GRADE: B-
The Lego Movie
There is no doubt a nostalgic feeling anyone who played with legos will get while watching this film. Nostalgia can only take you so far though. The film has some clever, tongue and cheek gags that’ll make you laugh, but if you’re looking for Dreamworks or Pixar caliber classic comedy, look elsewhere. The voice cast is decent and you could probably make a game out of the cameos, but the story, as heartwarming as it is, seems a bit scatter brained at times. The biggest achievement of the movie is without a doubt its animation, which makes an entire world, including water, smoke, and fiery explosions out of legos. FINAL GRADE: B
Reviews of Monuments Men and Robocop coming soon…