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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lego Ninjago Movie -- based on the popular Lego Ninjago TV show and toy line -- is appropriate for most kids, packing plenty of laughs along with clear (if not particularly deep) messages of empowerment, acceptance, and courage. While there's a fair bit of fighting/action (along the lines of earlier Lego movies), it's not constant -- and since it's meant to evoke how kids play with toys, it doesn't resemble anything realistic, whether it's kung fu-like scenes or blasters being fired. There's talk of parents breaking up, but no emotionally challenging moments related to the topic. While it's not the lightning in a bottle that The Lego Movie was, it will entertain adults nearly as much as it will younger audiences. As with all Lego movies, shows, and games, it also serves as a feature-length toy ad -- but you may not care because it's good fun.
What's the story?
In the Lego town of Ninjago, a mysterious force of good ninjas stands against the repeated assaults of Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux). Their leader (Dave Franco) is secretly Lord Garmadon's son, Lloyd (or as Garmadon says, "L-loyd"), an outcast in the town for nothing but his villainous heritage. When the absentee dad finally takes over Ninjago, Lloyd, his fellow ninjas, and their wise master (Jackie Chan) must go on a quest to find a secret capable of defeating Lord Garmadon and the "terrible" monster they've accidentally unleashed. Got that? There's also a shorter version: THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE is an empowerment movie with family-reconciliation elements and lots of jokes.
Is it any good?
This kid-friendly adventure rises above any potential Lego fatigue with sly humor and strong voice performances. Which is notable, because The Lego Ninjago Movie has a few strikes against it going in: an animation style we've now seen quite a bit, a familiar hero's-journey plot, three directors and 12 (yes, 12) writers credited between story and screenplay. At times, it can feel -- ahem -- assembled from incongruous pieces. That's seen in its on-again, off-again cheeky kung fu movie tribute feel, snapped together with obligatory positive messaging and product placement. Fortunately, it's all accompanied by some wacky laughs. For instance, by way of explaining how a character became a villain, there's a visual joke about his "unstable foundations." Plus, there are pop culture riffs and a fake 3D sequence. But perhaps the best-sustained gag is the nature of the movie's big monster (which we won't reveal here).
All of the Lego movies have had enviable voice casts, and Ninjago boasts one of the most interesting. Apart from leads Franco and Theroux (The Leftovers), who sounds as if he's having a whale of a time as the villainous dad, the legendary Chan appears in two roles. Chan and Theroux get most of the laughs. Other nice ninjas are voiced by Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, The Big Sick), Zach Woods (also of Silicon Valley), Michael Peña (memorable in everything from Crash to Ant-Man), and Abbi Jacobson (Broad City). You can't help but wonder how their talents might have been used with a more integrated script. But what ends up on screen is easily the second-best Lego movie so far. It's funny, it looks good, the messages are positive, and it's less chaotic than Lego Batman. Good stuff for a family movie night.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the action/fighting in The Lego Ninjago Movie. Did you find any of it scary? Why or why not? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
The main character's dad is a villain who left the family. Most of the movie is about them coming to an understanding with each other. Kids: What do you think of where their relationship ends up?
Sensei Wu goes to extremes to get his charges to listen to him. Why do you think he has to do that? Kids: Do you always listen to smart adults who are trying to help you (be honest!)?
Kids: Does anyone at your school get judged unfairly by their peers? Do you know people who are treated badly for reasons other than who they really are inside?
- In theaters: September 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 19, 2017
- Cast: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan
- Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action and rude humor
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.