Movie Reviews

Tv/streaming, collections, great movies, chaz's journal, contributors, the lego ninjago movie.

the lego ninjago movie review

Now streaming on:

The pieces are all there, but they never really snap into place in “The LEGO Ninjago Movie.”

The feature-film version of the long-running animated TV series “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu” only superficially resembles its source material, and it pales in comparison to its cinematic predecessors. Maybe such diminishing returns were inevitable. It would be impossible to recreate the groundbreaking, lightning-in-a-bottle innovation of 2014’s “ The Lego Movie .” We saw that earlier this year with the release of “ The Lego Batman Movie ,” which was consistently zippy and amusing but, inevitably, not quite as novel.

Now we have “The LEGO Ninjago Movie,” about a group of teenagers who are secretly ninjas, each with a special elemental power. Their challenge is to take on the evil Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux ), who also happens to be the father of the team’s Green Ninja, Lloyd ( Dave Franco ). But while the film is credited to three directors ( Charlie Bean , Paul Fisher and Bob Logan ) and a small army of writers, it results in only a few clever ideas that are chuckle-worthy, at best.

Its strongest bit is the introduction of a live-action cat within this animated setting—dubbed Meowthra in an homage to classic, Japanese movie monsters—who terrorizes Ninjago City when she’s accidentally summoned with a red laser pointer. But the enjoyment of the absurd sight of a cat knocking over Lego buildings lasts about as long as your average viral video—and then you’re stuck realizing how little there is to the script.

Part of the problem is that “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” is primarily about Lloyd struggling with his daddy issues and Garmadon trying to figure out whether and how to be a father to Lloyd, whom he hasn’t seen since the boy’s infancy. And aside from Lloyd, the other ninjas are essentially interchangeable, which is a huge departure from the television show. (I have a son who’s almost eight. We watch a lot of “Ninjago” in this house. Ask me anything.) The supporting players’ names and nature-related abilities are all the same—water, lightning, fire, etc.—but they have no discerning personalities beyond that. They are background noise. They are filler.

What’s so bizarre about that is that the longtime voice performers from the TV series—who’ve been playing these characters for seven seasons now—have all been replaced with better-known actors and comedians, who then get surprisingly little to do. Nothing against them—they’re all great and they’re solid voice talent, people you’re happy to see whether they appear in TV or film—but they’re not given enough material to justify overhauling the entire cast. The shift seems like a cynical ploy to make the movie more marketable.

For the record, they are Kumail Nanjiani (Jay), Fred Armisen (Cole), Michael Pena (Kai), Abbi Jacobson (Nya) and Zach Woods (Zane). Jackie Chan plays their wise leader, Master Wu, and Olivia Munn has a small supporting role as Lloyd’s mom, Koko.

“LEGO Ninjago” also suffers from its live-action bookend narrative structure, featuring Chan as a store owner who tells the legend of Ninjago to a wide-eyed kid. All that does is explain the presence of the cat and it gets the film’s pacing off to a sluggish start from which it never fully recovers.

What it could have used more of was world-building, literally and figuratively. What makes this place different from every other? What makes it better than the world of “The Lego Movie,” where everything was awesome? That movie efficiently and effectively laid out its parameters and characters. This one drops you in—so if you don’t know the show, you’ll have no connection to this setting. Having said that, if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll be struck by how little the movie has in common with it.

Despite the grander scale (and bigger budget), the movie doesn’t use the Legos for the thing that makes them fun: the building aspect of them, the possibility of creativity, the way they allow you to push boundaries and come up with structures and characters that maybe don’t make any sense, but they’re cool-looking. “LEGO Ninjago” is essentially an ordinary animated film, with visuals rendered in Lego form.

And sometimes the visuals are so garbled, this may as well be a “ Transformers ” movie, especially as the ninjas climb inside their various mecha to fly/climb/fight/etc. against Garmadon to keep him from destroying Ninjago City. Along those lines, the sound mix often made it hard to hear the quips, one-liners and banter, especially during the big action sequences, of which there are many. Then again, the jokes and the energy as a whole lack the infectious nature of previous Lego movies.

Since we’re making all the inevitable comparisons, it’s hard to shake the sensation that Theroux is essentially doing Will Arnett doing Batman in the previous two Lego movies. He brings an amusing buffoonery to this alleged super-villain—a clueless bravado, a total lack of self-awareness—but we’ve heard this shtick before. Even the husky swagger of Theroux’s delivery recalls Arnett’s performances, and it serves as yet another reminder of how superior the predecessors were.

And as my son pointed out after a screening of the film (between bursts of singing the TV show’s insanely catchy theme song) the ninjas don’t even do spinjitzu, their stylized martial-arts technique using their signature elemental powers. Not really—not until the end. But maybe we’ll see more of that in the sequel, which is certainly on the horizon, whether it’s merited or not.

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

Now playing

the lego ninjago movie review

Kim's Video

Brian tallerico.

the lego ninjago movie review

Simon Abrams

the lego ninjago movie review

Love Lies Bleeding

the lego ninjago movie review

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World

the lego ninjago movie review

LaRoy, Texas

Robert daniels, film credits.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie movie poster

The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)

Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.

101 minutes

Dave Franco as Lloyd (voice)

Michael Peña as Kai (voice)

Jackie Chan as Master Wu (voice)

Kumail Nanjiani as Jay (voice)

Zach Woods as Zane (voice)

Fred Armisen as Cole (voice)

Olivia Munn as Koko (voice)

Justin Theroux as Garmadon (voice)

Abbi Jacobson as Nya (voice)

Ali Wong as General Olivia (voice)

  • Charlie Bean
  • Paul Fisher

Writer (story by)

  • Hilary Winston
  • William Wheeler
  • Tom Wheeler
  • Dan Hageman
  • Kevin Hageman
  • Jared Stern
  • John Whittington
  • David Burrows
  • Garret Elkins
  • Ryan Folsey
  • Julie Rogers
  • John Venzon
  • Mark Mothersbaugh

Latest blog posts

the lego ninjago movie review

Ned Benson, Lucy Boynton, and Justin H. Min Want to Play The Greatest Hits for You

the lego ninjago movie review

Until It’s Too Late: Bertrand Bonello on The Beast

the lego ninjago movie review

O.J. Simpson Dies: The Rise & Fall of A Superstar

the lego ninjago movie review

Which Cannes Film Will Win the Palme d’Or? Let’s Rank Their Chances

the lego ninjago movie review

Common Sense Media

Movie & TV reviews for parents

  • For Parents
  • For Educators
  • Our Work and Impact

Or browse by category:

  • Get the app
  • Movie Reviews
  • Best Movie Lists
  • Best Movies on Netflix, Disney+, and More

Common Sense Selections for Movies

the lego ninjago movie review

50 Modern Movies All Kids Should Watch Before They're 12

the lego ninjago movie review

  • Best TV Lists
  • Best TV Shows on Netflix, Disney+, and More
  • Common Sense Selections for TV
  • Video Reviews of TV Shows

the lego ninjago movie review

Best Kids' Shows on Disney+

the lego ninjago movie review

Best Kids' TV Shows on Netflix

  • Book Reviews
  • Best Book Lists
  • Common Sense Selections for Books

the lego ninjago movie review

8 Tips for Getting Kids Hooked on Books

the lego ninjago movie review

50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12

  • Game Reviews
  • Best Game Lists

Common Sense Selections for Games

  • Video Reviews of Games

the lego ninjago movie review

Nintendo Switch Games for Family Fun

the lego ninjago movie review

  • Podcast Reviews
  • Best Podcast Lists

Common Sense Selections for Podcasts

the lego ninjago movie review

Parents' Guide to Podcasts

the lego ninjago movie review

  • App Reviews
  • Best App Lists

the lego ninjago movie review

Social Networking for Teens

the lego ninjago movie review

Gun-Free Action Game Apps

the lego ninjago movie review

Reviews for AI Apps and Tools

  • YouTube Channel Reviews
  • YouTube Kids Channels by Topic

the lego ninjago movie review

Parents' Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids

the lego ninjago movie review

YouTube Kids Channels for Gamers

  • Preschoolers (2-4)
  • Little Kids (5-7)
  • Big Kids (8-9)
  • Pre-Teens (10-12)
  • Teens (13+)
  • Screen Time
  • Social Media
  • Online Safety
  • Identity and Community

the lego ninjago movie review

Explaining the News to Our Kids

  • Family Tech Planners
  • Digital Skills
  • All Articles
  • Latino Culture
  • Black Voices
  • Asian Stories
  • Native Narratives
  • LGBTQ+ Pride
  • Best of Diverse Representation List

the lego ninjago movie review

Celebrating Black History Month

the lego ninjago movie review

Movies and TV Shows with Arab Leads

the lego ninjago movie review

Celebrate Hip-Hop's 50th Anniversary

The lego ninjago movie, common sense media reviewers.

the lego ninjago movie review

Plenty of fake kung fu in fun comedy with toy ninjas.

The Lego Ninjago Movie Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Intended to entertain rather than educate, but kid

The messages are positive but not deeply explored.

Good guys show courage in the face of long odds, a

Frequent but intentionally unrealistic fighting/ac

Some rude humor. Use of "oh my gosh" and "what the

It doesn't get more product-placement-y than this.

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…

Educational Value

Intended to entertain rather than educate, but kids will learn a bit about Lego characters and pieces, as well as lessons about forgiveness.

Positive Messages

The messages are positive but not deeply explored. There are clear themes of self-empowerment, forgiveness, and acceptance, plus reconciliation and prioritizing family.

Positive Role Models

Good guys show courage in the face of long odds, and bad guys come around to see the light. There are two strong female characters, but they take a back seat to the males. Ethnicity/race isn't an issue, as the characters are Lego figures (though the voice cast is fairly diverse).

Violence & Scariness

Frequent but intentionally unrealistic fighting/action. Blasters are fired. One character loses an arm, but it's played for laughs, and because the characters are Lego figures, it's not a permanent loss. The action comes in set pieces that resemble kids' play, with nonspecific hits in the kung fu-like scenes and human sound effects for blasters ("Pew! Pew! Pew!").

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Some rude humor. Use of "oh my gosh" and "what the heck."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

It doesn't get more product-placement-y than this. The whole movie could be considered an ad for Lego sets, as well as the Ninjago TV series, etc. The Lego brand name is frequently visible.

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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

Where to Watch

Videos and photos.

the lego ninjago movie review

Community Reviews

  • Parents say (23)
  • Kids say (76)

Based on 23 parent reviews

Really cool movie

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?

Movie Details

  • 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
  • Inclusion Information : Asian actors
  • 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
  • Award : Common Sense Selection
  • Last updated : April 14, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Suggest an Update

Our editors recommend.

LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu Poster Image

LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu

Want personalized picks for your kids' age and interests?

The Lego Movie

The Lego Batman Movie Poster Image

The Lego Batman Movie

Lego Hero Factory: Rise of the Rookies Poster Image

Lego Hero Factory: Rise of the Rookies

The Legend of Drunken Master Poster Image

The Legend of Drunken Master

Lego age-by-age guide, lego video games, related topics.

  • Sports and Martial Arts

Want suggestions based on your streaming services? Get personalized recommendations

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.

Log in or sign up for Rotten Tomatoes

Trouble logging in?

By continuing, you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Policies , and to receive email from the Fandango Media Brands .

By creating an account, you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Policies , and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and to receive email from the Fandango Media Brands .

By creating an account, you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Policies , and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes.

Email not verified

Let's keep in touch.

Rotten Tomatoes Newsletter

Sign up for the Rotten Tomatoes newsletter to get weekly updates on:

  • Upcoming Movies and TV shows
  • Trivia & Rotten Tomatoes Podcast
  • Media News + More

By clicking "Sign Me Up," you are agreeing to receive occasional emails and communications from Fandango Media (Fandango, Vudu, and Rotten Tomatoes) and consenting to Fandango's Privacy Policy and Terms and Policies . Please allow 10 business days for your account to reflect your preferences.

OK, got it!

Movies / TV

No results found.

  • What's the Tomatometer®?
  • Login/signup

the lego ninjago movie review

Movies in theaters

  • Opening this week
  • Top box office
  • Coming soon to theaters
  • Certified fresh movies

Movies at home

  • Fandango at Home
  • Netflix streaming
  • Prime Video
  • Most popular streaming movies
  • What to Watch New

Certified fresh picks

  • Civil War Link to Civil War
  • Monkey Man Link to Monkey Man
  • The First Omen Link to The First Omen

New TV Tonight

  • The Sympathizer: Season 1
  • Our Living World: Season 1
  • Under the Bridge: Season 1
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles: Season 1
  • Conan O'Brien Must Go: Season 1
  • Orlando Bloom: To the Edge: Season 1
  • The Circle: Season 6
  • Dinner with the Parents: Season 1
  • Jane: Season 2

Most Popular TV on RT

  • Fallout: Season 1
  • Ripley: Season 1
  • 3 Body Problem: Season 1
  • Parasyte: The Grey: Season 1
  • Shōgun: Season 1
  • Sugar: Season 1
  • We Were the Lucky Ones: Season 1
  • Baby Reindeer: Season 1
  • X-Men '97: Season 1
  • A Gentleman in Moscow: Season 1
  • Best TV Shows
  • Most Popular TV
  • TV & Streaming News

Certified fresh pick

  • Fallout Link to Fallout
  • All-Time Lists
  • Binge Guide
  • Comics on TV
  • Five Favorite Films
  • Video Interviews
  • Weekend Box Office
  • Weekly Ketchup
  • What to Watch

Best Movies of 2024: Best New Movies to Watch Now

25 Most Popular TV Shows Right Now: What to Watch on Streaming

What to Watch: In Theaters and On Streaming

Awards Tour

Fallout : What It Gets Right, and What It Gets Wrong

CinemaCon 2024: Day 3 – Disney Previews Deadpool & Wolverine , Moana 2 , Alien: Romulus , and More

  • Trending on RT
  • Best TV 2024
  • Play Movie Trivia
  • CinemaCon 2024
  • Popular Movies

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Reviews

the lego ninjago movie review

Easy entertainment for the kids even if it's not as original as the others...

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 | Nov 5, 2020

the lego ninjago movie review

There is still a lot of the old LEGO charm floating around...

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Oct 1, 2020

the lego ninjago movie review

When I say this is my least favorite of the three Lego animated films, I don't mean that as an insult... In fact, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is still quite spirited, funny, and fully enjoyable.

Full Review | May 13, 2020

the lego ninjago movie review

The film is so high-energy and desperate to keep your attention that it becomes rather exhausting to watch, like spending 97 minutes with a child that's overloaded on sugar.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jan 27, 2020

the lego ninjago movie review

The LEGO Ninjago Movie aims younger for its target audience, and while it's still enjoyable, it doesn't quite reach the peak of its predecessors.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | May 17, 2019

the lego ninjago movie review

The low point of the Lego franchise drops the ball hard by being a warmer, fuzzier retread of the first two films.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Mar 21, 2019

the lego ninjago movie review

A perfectly pleasant way to pass 90 minutes or so, but adult viewers looking to revisit the heartwarming silliness of The Lego Movie or the breathless gag rate of Lego Batman are advised to look elsewhere in the Brickverse.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Feb 21, 2019

the lego ninjago movie review

I left feeling pretty underwhelmed.

Full Review | Original Score: C | Feb 20, 2019

the lego ninjago movie review

While I may have been let down on some levels by this film, The LEGO Ninjago Movie still offers a good time, even for those with no familiarity with the toy line.

Full Review | Original Score: 6.75/10 | Dec 8, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

You could tell that the kids in the theaters were enjoying what they were watching...they do need to up the ante in further installments, though.

Full Review | Nov 12, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

One is not quite sure where the true forum for 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' should be promoted...on the straight-to-video shelves or merely being trapped in a cluttered toy box with other forgettable action figures.

Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4 | Nov 9, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

It doesn't quite have the sharp pacing and across-the-board humor as the previous two films, but it is still lots of fun with enough moments to appease the entire family.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Oct 31, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

It's kind of amazing how much better this send-up of the whole Power Rangers aesthetic is than the actual Power Rangers movie.

Full Review | Original Score: 3 | Oct 31, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

This film lacks the depth and wit that made the previous LEGO films a hit with all ages and critics.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Oct 10, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

The franchise may be running out of steam because I'm starting to get 'LEGO' fatigue.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Aug 30, 2018

While clueless adults will notice that this is the least amusing Lego movie yet, wise small children will note the presence of ninjas, some riding dragons, and enter a state of cinematic bliss.

Full Review | Aug 23, 2018

It's Lego-Power is straight up the plot of Might Morphin Power Rangers the movie.

Full Review | Feb 21, 2018

This is still a solid LEGO movie with a great voice cast.

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Feb 2, 2018

the lego ninjago movie review

The action is non-stop, the jokes (though aimed a little lower than usual) are rapid-fire, and the Lego world of bright colors and mechs and machines is something that Lego fans can enjoy.

Full Review | Original Score: B- | Jan 16, 2018

It's certainly brash and breezy enough to keep youngsters mildly amused, though adults may well agree that it's time to say leggo to Lego, which isn't even an element crucial to much of this underwhelming adventure.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Dec 21, 2017

an image, when javascript is unavailable

By providing your information, you agree to our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy . We use vendors that may also process your information to help provide our services. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA Enterprise and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie’ Review: Warner Bros. Keeps Building the World’s Most Consistently Great Animated Franchise

David ehrlich.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share to Flipboard
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Show more sharing options
  • Submit to Reddit
  • Post to Tumblr
  • Print This Page
  • Share on WhatsApp

You probably know what LEGO are, and you probably know who Batman is (don’t say “Bruce Wayne, Gotham’s billionaire playboy”), and that brand awareness helped to propel 2015’s “The LEGO Movie” and this February’s “The LEGO Batman Movie” into massive hits that transcended their target audience, appealing equally to adults and children alike. On the other hand — and this is a scientific fact — not a single person who’s gone through puberty has ever heard of “Ninjago.” Ninjas? Sure. The concept of going ? Absolutely. But “Ninjago”? That’s definitely not a real thing, let alone a popular line of toys that’s spawned graphic novels, video games, and a television show that’s now been on the air for six full seasons.

And yet, Warner Bros. continues to insists otherwise, the studio inexplicably dedicating the pivotal third film of their massive LEGO movie franchise to a property that most people can’t even pronounce correctly (it’s “Nin-JAH-go,” because the more obvious way of saying it might too strongly imply the inclusion of actual ninjas). They own the rights for everything from Harry Potter to Godzilla — not to mention the entire DC cinematic universe — and yet they went with a “Power Rangers” ripoff about some anonymous teenage block toys riding mecha dragons or something.

Good for them. In doing so, WB has shown that the LEGO saga can thrive without a superhero starting point (or the vocal talents of Chris Pratt). Every bit as irreverent, smart, and ridiculously entertaining as its predecessors, “ The LEGO Ninjago Movie ” proves that these films are now on the brink of becoming a viable brand unto themselves; it cements them as the most consistently delightful franchise in the contemporary world of corporate animation. Nothing else comes close.

But seriously, where the hell are all the ninjas? And why does something with such explicitly Japanese origins open with a logo that riffs on the (Chinese) Shaw Brothers? Needless to say, anyone expecting “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” to be a historically accurate (or racially sensitive) experience may need to adjust their expectations — capitalism is the only culture that matters here, even if Lord Business is missing in action. The futuristic megalopolis of Ninjago wasn’t really built with specifics in mind; on the contrary, the whole thing is just kind of vaguely Asian, an opportunistic fusion of symbols and references that suggest a part of the world without meaningfully representing it. The cityscape is dotted with torii gates, swamped in kung fu tropes, and reverberating with white voices.

There are, however, a few exceptions to that rule. One of them is Kumail Nanjiani. Another is Jackie Chan — the martial arts legend shows up in his full glory, playing the owner of an exotic antique store in the film’s flat and wholly useless live-action framing device. But things pick up considerably soon after that, as a hyper daytime talkshow parody (complete with LEGO Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts) hurls us into the kind of frenetic cartoon world that fans of this franchise have come to expect. In fact, the mode here is so familiar that initial fears “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” will be watered down from the series’ previous incarnations are soon replaced by fears that it copies them too closely. Like “The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Batman Movie” before it, this one is all about daddy issues, its frequently hilarious script (credited to five different writers) once again internalizing the idea that families can be pulled apart and put back together.

Dave Franco voices Lloyd Garmadon, a lifelong outcast thanks to the fact that his absentee father, Lord Garmadon ( Justin Theroux ), keeps trying to conquer Ninjago with his army of replaceable generals and his bottomless stockpile of shark-themed weaponry. But Lloyd has a secret: He moonlights as the mysterious Green Ninja (a ninja in name alone), a key member of the resistance group that always saves the city from his old man. Other fighters in the group include Nya (Abbi Jacobson), Cole (Fred Armisen), and Zane (Zach Woods), the latter of whom is a robot for some reason. These characters merely have moments, not arcs. Their leader is the wise old Master Wu (Jackie Chan again), and he will eventually inspire his disciples to embark upon a dangerous journey in order to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon, which is needed to defeat the fearsome Meowthra after Lloyd accidentally summons the beast by using the ultimate weapon (just one “ultimate”) as part of a desperate attempt to subdue Lord Garmadon.


Meowthra, you should know, is a cat. Like… a regular, live-action cat who’s been inserted into a fully CG environment. To the citizens of Ninjago, he’s a giant Kaiju with paws capable of pulverizing entire city blocks; to us, he’s… a cat. The effect is laugh-out-loud funny literally every time. More than that, it continues the franchise’s brilliant tradition of conceiving its film worlds with the imagination of a kid playing with their toys; anyone who grew up with a pet will remember how intrusive an animal could be to an elaborate fantasy game, and how urgent it would then become to fold the creature into the narrative.

Although only the saddest and most neglected of children could have imagined a villain as callous as Lord Garmadon. Combining Darth Vader’s looks (and his parenting skills), Dr. Evil’s obsession with sharks (and his parenting skills), and Donald Trump’s complete antipathy towards all forms of life (and his parenting skills), Lord Garmadon is the same type of mega-narcissist that’s defined the other two LEGO Movies. At one point, Lloyd tells Lord Garmadon that he ruined his life, to which the evil warlord obliviously responds: “How could I ruin your life, I wasn’t even there.” That’s a fiendishly cold bit of dialogue that might hit a bit too close to home for a lot of viewers, but every line that Theroux delivers in this film is funny; even the lines that aren’t funny are funny. His sing-songy cartoon voice (similar to the one he busted out in “Wanderlust”) is a perfect fit for the tone of this franchise, and there’s a fine art to the way Theroux undersells the little things, like the fact that Lord Garmadon refuses to learn the correct pronunciation of his own son’s first name (he calls him “Luh-Loyed,” because he’s stumped by the double “l”).

If anything, Theroux and Franco make such a sweet team that it’s easy to overlook how flimsy the film’s emotional backbone can feel. There are all sorts of faux-inspirational ideas and cheap Hallmark sentiments scattered throughout this story of a father working with his estranged son to defeat the mighty Meowthra and save Ninjago, but most of them seem purely ornamental. There’s nothing here that captures the same emotional power of the Lord Business twist at the end of “The LEGO Movie,” or the depth of feeling that flows between the orphaned Bruce Wayne and his new sidekick in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” But neither of those films has a cat destroying a LEGO city, so let’s just call it even.

Also, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” compensates for the relative obscurity of its toy line by having the franchise’s most aggressively random sense of humor; you have to respect any kids’ movie that’s hiding a “Locke” joke up its sleeve. Yes, “Locke,” the one where Tom Hardy is just in his car the whole time. There’s definitely a fear that audiences could get burned out on the sarcastic style of sensory overload that has come to define Warner Bros’ animation behemoth, but when even the studio’s most seemingly ill-advised attempts are this much fun, it’s tough to imagine that people will start complaining anytime soon.

“The LEGO Ninjago Movie” opens in theaters on Friday, September 22.

Sign Up:  Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

Most Popular

You may also like.

Doja Cat Gets Provocative at Coachella With Mud Dancing, Dinosaurs, Yetis, 21 Savage and a Determination to Avoid the Oldies

‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie’ Review: Cute and Funny Despite a Familiar Construction

Although the plot feels like it’s being drawn from the template of previous ‘LEGO’ movies, there’s still plenty to enjoy with this latest spinoff.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the first LEGO movie where I went in not having much of an investment on what happened. I cared about The LEGO Movie because I like LEGO, and I cared about The LEGO Batman Movie because I like Batman, but Ninjago is a LEGO sub-brand where I’ve never really been caught up with the toys (basically Japanese-inspired mechs) or the Cartoon Network series LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu . And yet what The LEGO Ninjago Movie shows is that these LEGO movies have now established an identity outside of the initial brand, and they can stand on their own as light, funny family comedies. While it’s the weakest of the three LEGO movies thus far, it’s still surprisingly sweet and charming even if its plot elements are reminiscent of the first two LEGO films.

Lloyd ( Dave Franco ) is a teenager living with his mom Koko ( Olivia Munn ) in the city of Ninjago, which is constantly under assault by Lloyd’s estranged father, Garmadon ( Justin Theroux ). Lloyd is pretty much a social pariah due to his father’s actions, which is made even more frustrating by the fact that Lloyd and his friends Cole ( Fred Armisen ), Jay ( Kumail Nanjiani ), Kai ( Michael Pena ), Nya ( Abbi Jacobson ), and Zane ( Zach Woods ) are secretly ninjas who protect the city every time Garmadon comes to town. When Lloyd accidentally unleashes the Ultimate Weapon on the city, he and his friends must team up with Garmadon to find the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon and save Ninjago.

So stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There’s an outcast, young guy who must save his city from a nefarious father figure, and it turns out the solution to the problem is not to defeat one’s enemy, but to work with them for the greater good. That father-son reconciliation features in The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie as does working with the villain (Lord Business, Joker, Garmadon) to save the day.  That’s not to say that the films are redundant, but they’ve clearly found plot beats that they’re comfortable with, and they don’t really want to rock the boat or dynamics they’ve set up.  Although that may end up getting tedious sooner rather than later, for now it works since most other family films (and blockbuster films in general) are about competition and domination rather than collaboration and reconciliation.

For now, the formula works, especially since the filmmakers have a strong read on the kind of comedy they want to do in these movies. If you liked the humor in The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie , you’ll probably be on board with what’s happening Ninjago . Although LEGO Movie is a bit sharper and Batman has the benefit of satirizing a widely beloved character, Ninjago coasts along simply being cute and funny. It has no problem leaning into an extended joke where Lloyd, disguised as the Green Ninja, tries to get Garmadon to admit that he feels remorse for abandoning his child only to have Garmadon keep coming back to inconsequential regrets like missing out on his favorite sushi place. It’s frequently silly, but I can’t really complain since I had a big smile plastered on my face throughout the film.

It’s almost a shame that with so many good moments between Lloyd and Garmadon, the script doesn’t spread the love around so we get to know the supporting cast better. Lloyd’s friends rarely get to be much more than the background ninjas, and while you might get the broadest characterizations—Zane is secretly a robot, Nya is a girl, Jay is kind of timid, Cole is into music—there’s really not much shading there to differentiate them. This is Lloyd’s story, and his focus on Garmadon makes the friendships feel hollow to the point where we’re left to wonder why these five teens decided to give Lloyd a shot while the rest of the world views him with disdain.

Although it doesn’t hit as well as The LEGO Movie or The LEGO Batman Movie , The LEGO Ninjago movie is still a delight, and a promising path forward for future LEGO spinoffs. The animation looks better than ever, and there’s a nice combination of humor and heart at the center of the film. Even if you have no affinity for the Ninjago brand or never watched an episode of the TV series, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy with these silly little ninjas.

an image, when javascript is unavailable

Film Review: ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’

The third entry in the Lego film franchise is still plenty of fun, but the formula is beginning to wear thin.

By Andrew Barker

Andrew Barker

Senior Features Writer

  • Shane MacGowan, the Pogues Frontman and ‘Fairytale of New York’ Singer, Dies at 65 5 months ago
  • ‘Yellowstone,’ ‘Love and Death’ Spark ‘Game-Changing’ Film Production Spike in Texas 10 months ago
  • ‘Welcome to Wrexham’: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney on Getting Vulnerable, Rejuvenating a City and Gearing Up for Dramatic Season 2 10 months ago

Lego Ninjago Movie

Before delving into the merits of “ The Lego Ninjago Movie ,” it’s worth pausing to reflect on just how remarkable it is that the third film in a cinematic franchise based on plastic children’s construction toys comes with high expectations attached. Before Lego launched its own film empire, other toy companies like Hasbro had established assembly lines of often profitable, invariably awful branded theatrical entertainments, and there was no reason to expect anything different from Lego. Yet 2014’s “The Lego Movie” and last spring’s “The Lego Batman Movie” surprised just about everyone by being smart, sophisticated, cognizant of their own synergistic origins, and most importantly, actual movies. That the Lego Cinematic Universe (LCU) became a recognizable acronym isn’t surprising; that it came to signify quality is almost miraculous.

Superficially, “Ninjago” is very much in line with its predecessors. Based on Lego’s ninja-themed original property – already a Cartoon Network TV show – the film is a hyperkinetic assault of eye-catching faux stop-motion animation; packed with clever, self-aware, and sometimes boldly absurdist humor; and all anchored by a father-son conflict that the film takes more seriously than is strictly necessary. Yet for the first time, the franchise’s house-style is beginning to show signs of wear. Whereas “The Lego Movie” and “Lego Batman” seemed to come by their cheeky irreverence naturally, the sketchier “Ninjago” sometimes strains to keep up the pace, with its anarchic sensibility now having the air of a mandate – and few tones are harder to maintain than “mandatory irreverence.” Still plenty entertaining and occasionally very funny, “Ninjago” nonetheless displays symptoms of diminishing returns, and Lego might want to shuffle its pieces a bit before building yet another film with this same model.

Popular on Variety

“Ninjago” takes place in the vaguely Japanese city of Ninjago, located on Ninjago Island, where residents wake up each morning watching “Good Morning Ninjago” with Lego Michael Strahan and Lego Robin Roberts. They’re never at a loss for news stories: Ninjago is attacked roughly once a day by the four-armed megalomaniac Garmadon ( Justin Theroux ) and his army of henchmen, who live in a conveniently located active volcano just off the island’s shores. And, roughly once a day, they’re repelled by a sextet of masked teenage ninjas who do battle in elaborate mechanical warcraft.

A tongue-in-cheek mashup of “Power Rangers,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Captain Planet,” these ninjas are coached by gnomic sensei Master Wu (Jackie Chan, also glimpsed in live-action bookend segments) and each have color-codings and martial styles rooted in various elements: We have red fire ninja Kai (Michael Pena), black earth ninja Cole (Fred Armisen), grey water ninja Nya (Abbi Jacobson), blue lightning ninja Jay (Kumail Nanjiani) and white ice ninja Zane (Zach Woods), an android whose character seems modeled entirely on the Steve Buscemi “how do you do, fellow kids” meme. Getting the short end of the stick here is the green ninja, Lloyd ( Dave Franco ), whose elemental power is…”green.” Even worse, though he attracts cheering crowds in his green ninja costume, the civilian Lloyd is best known for being Garmadon’s estranged son, and he has a hard time navigating high school when he’s blamed for his father’s rampages.

Lloyd’s Oedipal angst hits a peak when Garmadon butt-dials him on his 16 th birthday, vaguely surprised to learn that his son is no longer an infant. Lloyd channels his anger into fighting, but when Garmadon arrives equipped with an impenetrable power-suit, Lloyd steals Master Wu’s ultimate weapon – a laser pointer that attracts an enormous cat demon (played by an actual, non-Lego cat) who promptly begins destroying the city. To vanquish the kitty, the ninjas must go on a quest to retrieve the ultimate -ultimate weapon, and end up capturing Garmadon along the way, allowing for some belated father-son bonding.

Like both previous Lego movies, “Ninjago” throws most of its comic energy into its first act, piling up so many incidental jokes, sight-gags and non sequiturs that absorbing them all is nearly impossible. (Among the better ones: the barely audible “cancel the victory cake” announcement over the volcano lair loudspeaker after Garmadon’s latest failure, and the fact that Armisen’s ninja is also a DJ for no particular reason.)

But the comedown into the film’s sparer, slower final two-thirds is particularly pronounced here, with a few too many repetitions of running gags, and a stacked voice cast largely squandered on supporting characters with the barest traces of personality. The pop-culture references begin to lose their luster as well, and by the time Master Wu starts playing Guns ‘n’ Roses on bamboo flute, the film veers dangerously close to early Dreamworks-style snark. Unsurprisingly for a film with three directors, six screenwriters, and an additional three “story by” credits, “Ninjago’s” overall narrative has been committee-thought down to a rather conventional template that couldn’t be more at odds with its freewheeling jokes.

“Ninjago” is beautifully animated, however, even if it’s a bit less comprehensively Lego-y than usual, with brickless water, fireballs and flora abounding. Among the Lego films’ greatest pleasures is the way one starts watching hyperaware of the obsessive detail put into the digital bricolage, only to gradually start believing in the world it creates. That’s no different here, and as long as the company proves more willing to give its storytellers leeway to shake up the formulas, there’s plenty of potential for invention and surprise left in this toy box.

Reviewed at Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, September 19, 2017. MPAA rating: PG. Running time: 101 MINS.

  • Production: A Warner Bros. release and presentation in association with Ratpac-Dune of a Lin Pictures, Lord Miller, Vertigo Entertainment production. Produced by Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris McKay, Maryann Garger, Roy Lee. Executive producers, Will Allegra, Seth Grahame-Smith, John Powers Middleton, Steven Mnuchin, Zareh Nalbandian, James Packer, Jill Wilfert.
  • Crew: Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan. Screenplay: Logan, Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, John Whittington, from a story by Hilary Winston, Logan, Fisher, Wheeler, Wheeler, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, based on "Lego Ninjago" by the Lego Group. Editors: David Burrows, Garret Elkins, Ryan Folsey, Julie Rogers, John Venzon. Music: Mark Mothersbaugh.
  • With: Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan, Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Fred Armisen, Olivia Munn, Michael Strahan, Robin Roberts.

More From Our Brands

Doja cat skips the pop megahits in edgy coachella performance, an ultra-rare patek philippe set leads sotheby’s $1.3 million ‘gender-free’ vintage watch auction, timberwolves can clinch west title, but ownership remains in flux, be tough on dirt but gentle on your body with the best soaps for sensitive skin, billy joel 100th concert special: how to stream the performance online, verify it's you, please log in.


The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review

the lego ninjago movie review

Looking back, it almost seems silly to think that The LEGO Movie faced an uphill battle when it premiered back in 2014. Initially greeted with cynicism by many moviegoers, the film proved itself as an earnest and entertaining property and doubled down on its strengths with The LEGO Batman Movie earlier this year. Now, Charlie Bean's The LEGO Ninjago Movie is Hollywood's third foray into the realm of animated LEGOs, and while the ninja-centric spinoff is heavy on laughs, fun, and adventure, it also feels like the world of LEGO has inched ever so slightly closer to that "rushed cash grab" status that we feared in 2014.

In this LEGO adventure, we find ourselves dropped into Ninjago -- a Japan-esque land protected from evil by a secret clan of ninjas named Zane (Zach Woods), Cole ( Fred Armisen ), Kai ( Michael Pena ), Nya (Abbi Jacobson), Jay ( Kumail Nanjiani ) and Lloyd ( Dave Franco ). What evil do they fight, you ask? Well, day in and day out, our brave ninjas (with the help of Jackie Chan 's Sensei Wu) battle the dreaded Garmadon ( Justin Theroux ) as he tries to conquer Ninjago with a nautical-themed army. He's basically Black Manta crossed with Darth Vader. Though adored by the public, Lloyd must contend with the fact that the supervillain that he constantly battles is actually his father -- as well as the hatred that he receives from the public as a result. However, when Lloyd accidentally unleashes a powerful (and utterly adorable) beast called Meowthra on Ninjago, he must learn to bridge the gap with his father so that he can save his home and everyone in it. Along the way, he learns more than a few lessons about himself and discovers aspects of his character that he never could've imagined.

In a year that has seen an actual Power Rangers movie debut in theaters, The LEGO Ninjago Movie somehow manages to capture the fun of being a teenage superhero with your friends even better than the Saban revival. The jokes come hard and fast in Ninjago , with a heavy emphasis on a parody of classic kung-fu movies and Japanese kaiju films. Whether it is a machine gun that fires crabs (which eventually makes for a fantastic Top Gun reference) or a laser pointer as the "Ultimate Weapon," there's an undercurrent of slapstick silliness that permeates every inch of this ninja-themed land. The film seldom takes any time to slow down (sometimes to a fault), which allows the story to move through its beats quickly and efficiently -- albeit in a relatively straightforward and predictable direction when all is said and done.

That sense of fun and lightness has also been applied to The LEGO Ninjago Movie 's visuals, which have received a relatively substantial overhaul this time. In this particular LEGO film, elements like water, fire, and smoke are all real (as opposed to LEGO bricks, such as in The LEGO Movie ), which gives the film a far more organic aesthetic. Moreover, the film pays clear homage to classic kung-fu movies with its strong fight choreography (Jackie Chan reportedly played a prominent role in developing the fights) and cool, anime-inspired action sequences. As a result, the visuals are incredibly robust and impressive -- although it's worth mentioning that the lack of emphasis on the bricks themselves arguably defeats the whole purpose of telling these stories with LEGO bricks in the first place.

That said, the light tone and fun atmosphere fall short by comparison to projects like The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie because there's less meat on The LEGO Ninjago Movie 's bones. It does not pack the emotional punch of the original film, and it does not play with genre conventions in the way LEGO Batman did. Ninjago 's story doesn't feel nearly as ironic as anything that we have seen from this universe before, and as a result, it does not feel nearly biting or subversive.

As far as performances go, Justin Theroux represents the clear standout of the cast, as he apparently took full advantage of his opportunities to improvise in the recording booth. Garmadon is a maniacal scene-stealer in almost every single one of his scenes, and his manic energy helps give the film much of its comedic momentum. If a story truly is only as good as its villain, then The LEGO Ninjago Movie definitely works best when it gives Theroux (and by extension, Garmadon) room to run wild.

However, beyond Theroux, few characters stand out as clear favorites. Zach Woods' performance as robot teenager Zane is funny enough, but most of the rest of the cast members simply use their own voices to portray the characters. There's no cartoonish Good Cop/Bad Cop, Metal Beard, or Batman here; just an entertaining ensemble of well-known comedians and actors. The performances are not bad, per se; the film just puts all of its eggs in the Garmadon basket and relegates most of the other performers to secondary roles. Like many other aspects of the movie, they're just not that memorable compared to what this universe has given us before.

From start to finish, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a wild ride that more or less sustains its jokes and keeps the energy flowing. It is another enjoyable entry in the overarching LEGO franchise, but the delightfully sharp spark that made the first two LEGO films so great isn't quite there. You will certainly laugh and cheer with The LEGO Ninjago Movie , but it won't invoke that sense of warm nostalgia that made the other two LEGO films instant classics. The LEGO machine is still going strong, but where the franchise decides to go (or not go) from here is now of the utmost importance.

Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.

The Star Of The New Chris Farley Biopic Shared His Take After News Of The New Movie Broke

Karate Kid: An Updated Cast List For The Franchise's Sixth Movie, Including Jackie Chan And Ralph Macchio

How To Watch Blue Lights Season 2 Online And Stream All New Episode From Anywhere

Most Popular

the lego ninjago movie review

  • Newsletters

Site search

  • Israel-Hamas war
  • 2024 election
  • Solar eclipse
  • Supreme Court
  • All explainers
  • Future Perfect

Filed under:

The Lego Ninjago Movie is perfectly adequate, assuming you know what Ninjago is

But the direction it signals for the Lego Movie franchise is worrying.

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Twitter
  • Share this on Reddit
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: The Lego Ninjago Movie is perfectly adequate, assuming you know what Ninjago is

The Lego Ninjago Movie

The Lego Ninjago Movie is perfectly adequate on the level of cartoon-driven entertainment. That’s all it sets out to be. And so by that measure, it’s a rousing success. But by the measure of the movie franchise it serves as the third installment for, it’s missing some critical pieces.

Its predecessors in that franchise were hugely entertaining but also more than just fluff. The original Lego Movie was an unexpectedly joyous adventure-comedy that capitalized on the blocks’ ability to let kids’ creativity run wild. The Lego Batman Movie was competent both as comedy and as a coy satirical take on superhero movies more generally — slightly less clever, but still super fun.

This one has a lot of good jokes and puns, and it’s not unpleasant to watch. (The movie’s monster is a giant, non-talking cat, which is pretty funny for anyone who’s tried to play with Legos around a cat.) But when it comes to ideas, it has less ratting around upstairs than the previous two films.

Which is fine, if a bit disappointing. The Lego Ninjago Movie isn’t trying to launch or critique a franchise so much as extend an existing one. And while the Lego movies’ slide toward Saturday morning cartoon territory is disheartening, the franchise still packs in enough wry humor to make it much more fun than your average kids’ movie.

But if you’re not 10 years old, or don’t spend a lot of time in the proximity of 10-year-olds, your most burning question about The Lego Ninjago Movie may be less about whether the movie is successful and more about what a “ninjago” is. The movie itself isn’t all that illuminating on that point — or any point in particular — so here’s the context you need to pick up what Lego Ninjago is putting down.

What’s a ninjago?

“Ninjago,” a portmanteau of “ninja” and “Lego,” is not a thing. It’s a world. Ninjago is a fictional place invented as both a theme for Lego sets and a setting for the show Ninjago: Master of Spin , which began its run in 2011 and is hugely popular with the younger set.

Ninjago, as the lore would have it, was created by the First Spinjitzu Master, who used some very powerful weapons called the Four Elemental Weapons of Spinjitzu. The Master had two sons — Lord Garmadon and Sensei Wu — who were evil and good, respectively. Garmadon was eventually banished to an underworld while Wu protected the powerful weapons. But Garmadon came back, so Wu trained four young ninjas, who became the keepers of the weapons. Garmadon’s goal is to conquer Ninjago; Wu’s goal is to protect it.

The Lego Ninjago Movie’s monster

That information would have been pretty helpful going into The Lego Ninjago Movie , though it does its best to fill all the details in very quickly so those who aren’t superfans can get the gist. By the time the movie starts, the four ninjas have grown to six: Cole ( Fred Armisen ) is the earth ninja, Jay ( Kumail Nanjiani ) is the lightning ninja, Kai ( Michael Peña ) is the fire ninja, Nya ( Abbi Jacobson ) is the water ninja, Zane ( Brent Miller ) is the ice ninja, and Lloyd ( Dave Franco ) is the “green” ninja, and no, he doesn’t really know what that means either.

Lloyd is also the son of Lord Garmadon ( Justin Theroux ), a fact that gives him no end of grief, since his dad keeps attacking the city with his skeleton army and the other parents at his school aren’t so keen on their kid playing with the son of the guy trying to wreck their homes and lives. Garmadon — who calls him “Luh-loyd” — has been an absentee father for the most part, so Lloyd lives with his mother and tries to keep her from finding about his secret identity as the Green Ninja.

That’s the basic setup, and it all unfurls in classic cartoon-movie style, with Lloyd and Lord Garmadon winding up, through a series of unexpected events, fighting on the same side and having various revelations about themselves, their histories, and their relationships.

The Lego Ninjago Movie puts the franchise on a dangerous slope

There’s some martial arts in here, some monsters (mostly the cat), some slapstick and joking around, and some adventuring, all of which is entirely serviceable for entertaining a room full of young Lego Ninjago fans who have enjoyed the show’s six seasons while not actively boring their indulgent parents.

Also present: lots and lots of product placement. The simultaneous rise of the show and the Lego sets makes this inescapable, of course. There’s also a Ninjago theme in the toy-to-video-game product Lego Dimensions, and a Lego Juniors version for the smallest fans.

A scene from The Lego Ninjago Movie

In a sense, the Lego Movie franchise has always been blatant product placement, of course. It’s right there in the name. But compared with its predecessors, this one doesn’t have as much to recommend it to those who are there more for the comedy than for the credit card bills. It relies on references and jokes for its humor instead of going big and slyly poking fun at movies themselves.

And that could be a worrying sign of the future of the Lego movies, which have always been a bright spot of imagination in the confused and sometimes blatantly consumeristic A ngry Birds / Trolls / Emoji Movie parade. Let’s hope they don’t succumb to the same fate.

The Lego Ninjago Movie opens in US theaters on September 22.

Will you support Vox today?

We believe that everyone deserves to understand the world that they live in. That kind of knowledge helps create better citizens, neighbors, friends, parents, and stewards of this planet. Producing deeply researched, explanatory journalism takes resources. You can support this mission by making a financial gift to Vox today. Will you join us?

We accept credit card, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also contribute via

the lego ninjago movie review

Next Up In Culture

Sign up for the newsletter today, explained.

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.

Thanks for signing up!

Check your inbox for a welcome email.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.

A pair of hands, in white medical latex gloves, holds a single BCG vaccine dose in a very small brown bottle.

Every year, tuberculosis kills over a million people. Can a new vaccine turn the tide?

the lego ninjago movie review

The history of Arizona’s Civil War-era abortion ban

the lego ninjago movie review

Iran’s retaliatory attack against Israel, briefly explained

An illustration of a man floating in the air on his back encircled by several floating objects: a chair, a wall clock, a turtleneck sweater, a potted plant, a curtain and rod, a book, and two plates.

Life is hard. Can philosophy help?

Several pro-Trump yard signs are displayed in the grass, printed with slogans like “Gun Owners 4 Trump,” “Defend Our Liberty,” and “Stop Election Fraud.”

Don’t sneer at white rural voters — or delude yourself about their politics

A hand wearing a surgical glove holds a vaccine vial that says “Measles Mumps Rubella Vaccine.” A syringe is visible in the background.

You probably shouldn’t panic about measles — yet

  • Cast & crew
  • User reviews

The Lego Ninjago Movie

Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Dave Franco, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani in The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas. Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas. Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas.

  • Charlie Bean
  • Paul Fisher
  • William Wheeler
  • Jackie Chan
  • Dave Franco
  • Fred Armisen
  • 140 User reviews
  • 127 Critic reviews
  • 55 Metascore
  • 7 nominations

Ninjago: True Ninja

  • Fuchsia Ninja
  • Ninja Computer

Justin Theroux

  • General Olivia
  • Retirement General
  • General Omar
  • General Jolly

Charlyne Yi

  • Terri IT Nerd
  • Asimov IT Nerd

Olivia Munn

  • Ms. Laudita
  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

More like this

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Did you know

  • Trivia Following the tradition of other Jackie Chan movies, bloopers are included at the end.
  • Goofs As Lloyd and Garmadon are being carted toward the volcano, one of their captors claims that the 15 million Kelvin temperature lava will melt them before they even feel the heat. While technically true, volcanic lava is not anywhere near that hot. Volcanic lava can be anywhere from 970 to 1500 Kelvin (700 to 1200 Celsius.) By comparison, 15 million Kelvin is roughly 15 million Celsius and is the approximate temperature of the nuclear core of the sun. If the volcano was really 15 million kelvin, everything around it would be vaporized.

[from trailer]

Garmadon : You ready for me to conquer Ninjago?

Lloyd : Oh, I'll be waiting...

Lloyd : Dad.

Garmadon : Sorry, what was that last thing you said?

Lloyd : What?

Garmadon : That last part, I didn't catch it.

Lloyd : Why, I didn't say anything, what do you mean? I said "I'll be waiting" and I stopped talking...

[takes off helmet]

Lloyd : ... Dad.

Garmadon : L-Lloyd?

Lloyd : That's right, your son! And it's LLOYD!

Garmadon : No. L-L-O-Y-D. I named you.

Lloyd : You ruined my life!

Garmadon : That's not true! I haven't even been a part of your life, how could I ruin it? I wasn't even there.

  • Crazy credits In the extra scene later, there is a gag reel with Jackie Chan catching flying bowls.
  • Alternate versions In the UK version, local television presenters Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard replaced the voices of Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan , respectively.
  • Connections Featured in Conan: The Cast of 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' (2017)
  • Soundtracks Heroes (Theme Song) Written by Alex Geringas and William Fuller Produced by Alex Geringas Performed by Blaze N Vill

User reviews 140

  • rogerdarlington
  • Oct 9, 2017
  • How long is The Lego Ninjago Movie? Powered by Alexa
  • September 22, 2017 (United States)
  • United States
  • Official Facebook
  • Official Site
  • Phim Lego Ninjago
  • Animal Logic
  • LEGO System A/S
  • Lin Pictures
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro
  • $70,000,000 (estimated)
  • $59,364,177
  • $20,433,071
  • Sep 24, 2017
  • $123,764,177

Technical specs

  • Runtime 1 hour 41 minutes
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Dolby Digital
  • Dolby Surround 7.1

Related news

Contribute to this page.

Fred Armisen, Michael Peña, Dave Franco, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani in The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

  • See more gaps
  • Learn more about contributing

More to explore

Production art

Recently viewed

an image, when javascript is unavailable

The Definitive Voice of Entertainment News

Subscribe for full access to The Hollywood Reporter

site categories

‘the lego ninjago movie’: film review.

The toy-branded TV series jumps to the big screen in Warner Bros.' 'The Lego Ninjago Movie.'

By THR Staff

  • Share this article on Facebook
  • Share this article on Twitter
  • Share this article on Flipboard
  • Share this article on Email
  • Show additional share options
  • Share this article on Linkedin
  • Share this article on Pinit
  • Share this article on Reddit
  • Share this article on Tumblr
  • Share this article on Whatsapp
  • Share this article on Print
  • Share this article on Comment

The product of three credited directors, six credited screenwriters, five editors and one executive producer who helmed two of the most uninspired trilogy enders in recent memory (Brett Ratner , of X-Men: The Last Stand and Red Dragon ), The Lego Ninjago Movie is, finally, more or less the kind of advertainment observers expected from the first big-screen adventure featuring Lego toys. A perfectly adequate family film for kids who love watching things they’ve seen many times before (which is to say, most kids), it offers plenty of chuckles for their parents but nothing approaching the glee of that first Lego Movie .

In a live-action framing device, the picture opens like a Gremlins knockoff, with a young boy wandering into a mysterious Chinatown curio store. The shopkeeper, Jackie Chan , sees the kid’s beat-up Lego action figure and takes pity on him, transforming “Lloyd” into a ninja with some sleight of hand. He then pulls a carved-wood figurine out from a cabinet (this one a wizened martial-arts master) and starts spinning a yarn about “the story of Ninjago .”

Release date: Sep 22, 2017

Older viewers who still associate Legos with basic-shape bricks that can be used to build anything a child imagines may not know that Ninjago is a vast empire of branded kits, each designed to build a specific element of a world depicted in a TV series of the same name. Ninjago is, in other words, the kind of imagination-inhibiting toy that represented everything dumb and oppressive in 2014’s The Lego Movie . (And from which that year’s self-serving Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary suggested, dishonestly, the company was moving away.)

Ninjago is a strange island-city where elements of Chinese and Japanese pop culture combine to create an environment populated mostly by white people. (Lego humans tend to share a common, unidentifiable skin tone, but of the top-billed actors voicing these characters, only Chan comes from China or Japan.) Here, civilization faces constant threat from Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux ), a villain who lives in a volcano and wreaks havoc periodically.

The aforementioned Lloyd ( Dave Franco , often charming in live action but generic here) is Garmadon’s estranged son and therefore a pariah in Ninjago . The only people who’ll have anything to do with him are the five friends who secretly form a superhero team with him: They’re Power Ranger-like warriors who do battle with Garmadon in giant robo-mech suits. What they have to do with ninjas is anyone’s guess, and — beyond the fact that one is a girl and one is a robot — the script doesn’t bother giving any of them (aside from Lloyd) much of a personality.

The ninjas’ spiritual leader is Master Wu (Chan), whose secret stash of gear includes one Ultimate Weapon. After the latest clash between Garmadon and the ninjas fails to destroy the bad guy (battle scenes here are epic but so busy in their design they become a blur), Lloyd decides to steal this mysterious weapon and use it against dear old Dad.

Like The Lego Movie ‘s Kragle , the Ultimate Weapon turns out to be a common household object, a key-chain laser pointer. How this device unleashes its destructive power is surprising and belly laugh-worthy, which of course means it is spoiled by the film’s trailers. Suffice it to say that Lloyd unwittingly causes more harm to Ninjago than his father ever did. Now he and his buddies must go on a dangerous quest to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon.

Garmadon decides to help them, for reasons that will likely be lost on viewers but make perfect sense to any hack screenwriters in the audience: Father and son must, of course, be forced to bond during their travails and reconcile in the end.

Readers detecting a vaguely Skywalkerian theme will observe many Star Wars references here, along with plenty of borrowings from other fantasy adventures. Though these lack the clever, self-aware quality of the external references in The Lego Movie , they’re inoffensive and generally effective — up until the picture’s “the power is inside of you” climax, at which point they may prompt some eye-rolling. The inevitable heart-to-heart between the two Garmadons , Lloyd and Lord, is more sappy than satisfying — despite the novelty of its setting, which may have some young kids rolling in the aisles.

Related Stories

'lego ninjago movie' trailer brings kung fu to the brick world.

Production companies: Lin Pictures, Lord Miller, Vertigo Entertainment Distributor: Warner Bros. Voice cast: Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux , Fred Armisen , Kumail Nanjiani , Michael Pena, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Olivia Munn Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan Screenwriters: Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, John Whittington Producers: Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris McKay, Maryann Garger , Roy Lee Executive producers: Jill Wilfert , Keith Malone, Simon Lucas, Chris Leahy, Seth Grahame-Smith, Zareh Nalbandian , Brett Ratner Production designers: Kim Taylor, Simon Whiteley Editors: Julie Rogers, Garret Elkins, Ryan Folsey , John Venzon , David Burrows Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh Casting director: Mary Hidalgo

Rated PG, 101 minutes

THR Newsletters

Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day

More from The Hollywood Reporter

China box office: ‘boy and the heron’ sails to $94m, ‘godzilla x kong’ hits $110m, 2024 writers guild awards: ‘the holdovers,’ ‘american fiction,’ ‘succession’ among winners, box office: alex garland’s ‘civil war’ opens no. 1 with history-making $25.7m for a24, lori loughlin recalls working with keanu reeves on 1988’s ‘the night before:’ “he’s just a dream”, ‘triangle of sadness’ director ruben östlund proposes requiring a license to use cameras, matthew mcconaughey and kate hudson were “immediately comfortable” on ‘how to lose a guy in 10 days’ set.


  • Warner Bros.

Summary The battle for Ninjago City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, aka the Green Ninja, along with his friends, who are all secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise, they must defeat evil warlord Garmadon, The Worst Guy Ever, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad. Pitting mech against mech and father ag ... Read More

Directed By : Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan

Written By : William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, John Whittington, Hilary Winston, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan

Where to Watch

the lego ninjago movie review

Jackie Chan

Master wu, mr. liu.

the lego ninjago movie review

Dave Franco

the lego ninjago movie review

Fred Armisen

the lego ninjago movie review

Kumail Nanjiani

the lego ninjago movie review

Michael Peña

the lego ninjago movie review

Abbi Jacobson

the lego ninjago movie review

David Burrows

Fuchsia ninja, alex kauffman, ninja computer.

the lego ninjago movie review

Justin Theroux

the lego ninjago movie review

General Olivia

Garret elkins, retirement general, todd hansen, general omar, doug nicholas, general jolly.

the lego ninjago movie review

Charlyne Yi

Terri it nerd, vanara taing, asimov it nerd.

the lego ninjago movie review

Olivia Munn

the lego ninjago movie review

Laura Kightlinger

Ms. laudita.

the lego ninjago movie review

Randall Park

Chen the cheerleader.

the lego ninjago movie review

Maggie the Cheerleader

Critic reviews.

  • All Reviews
  • Positive Reviews
  • Mixed Reviews
  • Negative Reviews

User Reviews

Related movies.

the lego ninjago movie review

Spirited Away

the lego ninjago movie review


the lego ninjago movie review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

the lego ninjago movie review

Beauty and the Beast

the lego ninjago movie review

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

the lego ninjago movie review

Sita Sings the Blues

the lego ninjago movie review

Toy Story 3

the lego ninjago movie review

The Triplets of Belleville

the lego ninjago movie review

The Boy and the Heron

the lego ninjago movie review

Waltz with Bashir

the lego ninjago movie review

Only Yesterday (1991)

the lego ninjago movie review

It's Such a Beautiful Day

the lego ninjago movie review

Finding Nemo

Related news.

2024 Movie Release Calendar

2024 Movie Release Calendar

Jason dietz.

Find release dates for every movie coming to theaters, VOD, and streaming throughout 2024 and beyond, updated weekly.

April Movie Preview (2024)

April Movie Preview (2024)

Keith kimbell.

The month ahead will bring new films from Alex Garland, Luca Guadagnino, Dev Patel, and more. To help you plan your moviegoing options, our editors have selected the most notable films releasing in April 2024, listed in alphabetical order.

DVD/Blu-ray Releases: New & Upcoming

DVD/Blu-ray Releases: New & Upcoming

Find a list of new movie and TV releases on DVD and Blu-ray (updated weekly) as well as a calendar of upcoming releases on home video.

SXSW 2024 Recap: Best and Worst Films

SXSW 2024 Recap: Best and Worst Films

Which films impressed reviewers during the 2024 edition of the South by Southwest Film & TV Festival? We recap the reactions of critics to all of this year's major SXSW premieres and tell you which titles won the festival's major awards.

Every Denis Villeneuve Movie, Ranked

Every Denis Villeneuve Movie, Ranked

Before French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve earned the attention of sci-fi fans with excellent Dune and Blade Runner films, he made a name for himself with crime thrillers and indie dramas. Here, we rank every one of his films to date from worst to best by Metascore.


Supported by

Review: ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ Sticks to the Instruction Manual

  • Share full article

the lego ninjago movie review

By A.O. Scott

  • Sept. 20, 2017

“When are the Wegos coming on?” the young boy sitting next to me asked his father. His impatience was reasonable enough. Here we were, five minutes into “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” gazing at a live-action prologue with Jackie Chan, a kid and a cat in a store full of exotic knickknacks.

Soon enough, the Wegos awwived, and the latest installment in a nearly foolproof franchise was underway, a fast-moving mélange of brazen corporate promotion, winking pop-culture cleverness and earnest lesson-learning. I realize that makes this movie sound indistinguishable from nearly every other piece of family-targeted animated big-screen entertainment out there, and I’m sorry to report that the Lego movie enterprise has lapsed into intentional mediocrity.

This is especially disappointing given the conceptual wit, visual flair and bonkers imagination of “The Lego Movie” and the sweet silliness of “The Lego Batman Movie.” “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan from a script with an army of credited authors, attaches itself to some of the tropes and images of Asian action cinema with sloppy affection. Mr. Chan, who voices a wise and venerable teacher in addition to playing the wise and venerable shopkeeper, doesn’t really belong to the ninja genre. But neither do the young fighters who protect the city of Ninjago from an evil four-armed warlord named Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux. They prefer big, noisy machines to stealth, guile and swordsmanship.

Garmadon, who wants to be a mayor, is a megalomaniac whose regular assaults on peace and normalcy are breathlessly covered by the news media and whose favorite pastime is firing his underlings. His estranged teenage son, Lloyd (Dave Franco), is ostracized and mocked for being the child of such a monster. But Lloyd, whose alter ego is the Green Ninja, works behind the scenes to check his father’s worst tendencies. Does every movie have to be a political allegory now? Can’t we just have fun?

Not as much as we’d like to. The Lego figures are rendered with playful rigor; their limited movements and expressions generate some amusing sight gags. But the physical world they inhabit is more of a generic digital-cartoon space than a snapped-together environment. And the themes they explore are tired, cynical, sub-Disney bromides about family reconciliation and self-discovery.

A dollop of mawkish sentiment is to be expected in this kind of movie. “The Lego Ninjago Movie” applies it in gluey globs, freezing the action so that Lloyd and Garmadon can work out their issues. For whose benefit? Children are unlikely to be captivated by this unconvincing melodrama of abandonment and reconciliation, and adults will be moved by it only because we’re hopeless crybabies.

We’re also, at least in the eyes of the committee that issued this strategy memo disguised as a movie, eager to hear the voices of cool people we watch on television. Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City,” Fred Armisen of “Portlandia” and Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley” (and also “The Big Sick”) are on sidekick duty here, to no memorable effect. Ms. Jacobson’s character, the only girl in the six-ninja squad, barely rises to the level of tokenism.

“She’s a girl and a ninja! Can she have it all?” a voice-over asks sardonically, trying to make a self-conscious joke at the expense of the movie’s own imaginative limitations. “You fellas need to inform yourselves on where we’re at culturally,” the lady ninja retorts. It’s a good line, but also one that the writers and directors — fellas to a man — might have taken a bit more to heart. Or maybe they did, and this is just where we’re at culturally.

The Lego Ninjago Movie Rated PG. Plastic figurines roughhousing and saying mildly naughty things. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes.

Explore More in TV and Movies

Not sure what to watch next we can help..

Even before his new film “Civil War” was released, the writer-director Alex Garland faced controversy over his vision of a divided America  with Texas and California as allies.

Theda Hammel’s directorial debut, “Stress Positions,” a comedy about millennials weathering the early days of the pandemic , will ask audiences to return to a time that many people would rather forget.

“Fallout,” TV’s latest big-ticket video game adaptation, takes a satirical, self-aware approach to the End Times .

“Sasquatch Sunset” follows the creatures as they go about their lives. We had so many questions. The film’s cast and crew had answers .

If you are overwhelmed by the endless options, don’t despair — we put together the best offerings   on Netflix , Max , Disney+ , Amazon Prime  and Hulu  to make choosing your next binge a little easier.

Sign up for our Watching newsletter  to get recommendations on the best films and TV shows to stream and watch, delivered to your inbox.

Notice: All forms on this website are temporarily down for maintenance. You will not be able to complete a form to request information or a resource. We apologize for any inconvenience and will reactivate the forms as soon as possible.

the lego ninjago movie review

  • DVD & Streaming

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

  • Action/Adventure , Animation , Comedy , Kids

Content Caution

the lego ninjago movie review

In Theaters

  • September 22, 2017
  • Voices of Jackie Chan as Master Wu/Mr. Liu; Dave Franco as Lloyd; Justin Theroux as Garmadon; Olivia Munn as Koko; Fred Armisen as Cole; Kumail Nanjiani as Jay; Zach Woods as Zane; Michael Peña as Kai; Abbi Jacobso as Nya

Home Release Date

  • December 19, 2017
  • Charlie Bean, Bob Logan, Paul Fisher


  • Warner Bros.

Movie Review

Lloyd Garmadon leads a double life.

On the one hand he’s just an average teenage misfit—a kid who’s well loved by his mom but not much by anyone else. I mean, hey, high school is tough enough, you know? A pretty judgy place if you ask Lloyd.

On top of that, Lloyd also has another burden to bear: It just so happens that Lloyd’s absentee dad is none other than the evil warlord Garmadon.

Yeah, that evil warlord Garmadon: the totally evil do-badder who regularly tries to take over or destroy their home of Ninjago City. This four-armed, demonic-looking dude is so foully bad that he lives inside a volcano, fer crying out loud!

Now, that’s some pretty negative parental guidance right there.

Of course, his dad’s rep only heaps more coals on Lloyd’s head. Just about all the kids at school hate him. Some guy even made up an obnoxious song called “Boo Lloyd” just to rub it in. And it became a hit on the radio.

Poor Lloyd.

But it’s not all bad news. Which brings us back to Lloyd’s double life.

You see, he and his fellow outcast friends also happen to secretly be … ninja warriors. Led by the mysterious Master Wu—a wisecracking wily wise man of the far We …, er, East —these six teens wear colorful outfits, pilot decked-out battle mechs and wield magical elemental powers.

There’s Kai the red fire ninja; Cole the black earth ninja; Nya the grey water ninja; Jay the blue lightning ninja; Zane the white ice ninja; and Lloyd the green, uh, green ninja. (Maybe it’s an environmental thing, Lloyd’s not sure.)

Lloyd and his masked pals are as beloved in their ninja roles as they are ostracized as regular teens. They’re also the only force that has a chance of beating Garmadon and his baddies. And so they fight on in secret.

The problem is, even this “famous” side of Lloyd’s life actually isn’t so great. Every time they face off with his warlord foe of a father, Lloyd realizes just how much he’s missed in his life because of that oblivious evil guy. He’s never had a dad to look up to. He’s never had a father to teach him important father-son stuff. He’s only had an enemy who doesn’t seem to care in the least that he has a son out in the world somewhere.

Then one day during a typical battle with Garmadon and his wicked army, something goes wrong. Thinking that he might put an end to his dad’s evil forces once and for all, Lloyd accidentally unleashes a terrible monster on the city.

Now the green ninja is in something of a pickle. (And that’s not a green ninja power.)

To save everyone, Lloyd must embark upon a perilous, life-threatening quest. But worse, he might need to resort to something even more horrible. Something unthinkable.

He might have to … ask his father for help.

Positive Elements

“Nobody’s parents are perfect,” one of Lloyd’s friends says to make him feel better. Another pal agrees: “I mean, my mom is weird and collects seashells. Your dad levels cities and attacks innocent people. So, they’ve all got their quirks.” That interaction sets the stage for this kid pic’s exploration of familial bonds and Lloyd’s longing for a deeper father-son connection. As the story unfolds, we witness the transforming power of a loving relationship as well as the difference forgiveness and communication can make in a broken one.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie also suggests that feeling like an outcast isn’t a permanent season of life. Sometimes difficult situations can change if you alter your perspective and work toward the changes you’d like to see, the film tells us. Lloyd, for his part, eventually discovers his ability to be a leader thanks to Master Wu’s prompting.

[ Spoiler Warning ] Lloyd’s relationship with his dad shifts substantially and the teen expresses his love for both of his parents. We see the sacrificial choices that Lloyd’s mom, Koko, has made for him. “Your mom was the best,” a humbled Garmadon eventually admits. “She wanted the best of me and only wanted the best for you. I never should have left.” The baddie softens as he remembers his love for Koko and the choices he should have made, but didn’t. Later, Garmadon is surprised at how much he enjoys doing the kinds of father-son things Lloyd’s often longed for.

Spiritual Elements

Master Wu speaks to his young charges in vague spiritual terms about the energy that flows through all things and the ninja teens’ innate ability to tap into the elemental powers within them. Accordingly, each one wields his or her abilities in element-specific ways.

Sexual Content

Some blocky LEGO characters on the beach wear swimsuits and bikinis. Garmadon demonstrates a trick he can do with his two sets of arms, turning his back and pretending to be making out with two people. A secondary character, the Fuchsia Ninja, acts a bit effeminately. During a fight with Master Wu, Garmadon rips off his opponent’s pants and laughs at the man’s “tightie whities.”

Violent Content

This is a “ninja” movie, so there is plenty of thumping hand-to-hand combat with kicks, punches and club blows. Larger conflicts feature robot-like battle mechs and involve plastic missiles and explosives that send LEGO blocks and characters flying. Special weapons shoot full-size sharks and other plastic aquatic animals. (Really.)

When he’s upset, Garmadon launches his displeasing generals from the top of his volcano base like so many flaming missiles. Later we see a large group of them, with their hair and outfits still smoldering with glowing embers. LEGO skeletons are scattered around a dark and shadowy part of this plastic world, too.

A giant, live-action cat “monster” knocks over large buildings and smashes the ninja’s mechs. It even swallows Garmadon whole at one point. But, of course, all of the above is bloodless LEGO block violence that’s played out in humorous ways.

Crude or Profane Language

Garmadon sends a letter full of silly name-calling, including the line, “You’re a stupid dummy with a big butt and you smell like a butt.” That’s a concentrated representation of the toilet-tinged verbal volleys viewers encounter throughout this pic—along with a few uses of “oh my gosh” and “what the heck.”

Garmadon spits out a veiled wink at profanity when he huffs, “He and I are gonna have words. And you can bet some of those words are gonna have four letters.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Garmadon throws a pool party for his evil hordes, and some partiers sip on paper umbrella-adorned mixed drinks.

Other Negative Elements

Early on, Garmadon is oblivious to the pain his actions have caused. “How could I have ruined your life?” he asks his emotionally wounded son. “I wasn’t even there.”

After a frightening interaction, Garmadon quips, “I might need a change of armor.”

Ninjas, giant battle mechs, Jackie Chan and LEGOs. Oh my.

The third entry in the LEGO movie franchise definitely takes a different tack than the first two super hero-focused flicks . But this latest LEGO tale still feels, uh, apiece with the plastic-block cinematic universe we’ve come to know so well.

It’s packed with quick irreverent quips and break-everything-into-pieces goofy action. And the whole thing plays out in a grand, ridiculous scale. We’ve got villains that live inside an active volcano, and who attack cities with shark-launching weapons. We’ve got a live-action tabby that appears as a skyscraper-tumbling monstrosity.

That said, I couldn’t help but think that this kid flick’s spoofing of ’80s-style martial arts movies felt a tad slow and predictable at first. (And may be a bit too “ Buy this cool kit at your local retailer!” merchandise – centered as well.) And even though the pic frowns at bullying, judgmental types, that doesn’t keep it from indulging in quite a bit of “stupid-dummy-smelly-butt” name-calling nonetheless.

That said, once we turn the corner and reach the heart of this pic, it’s all snap-together polypropylene goodness. Familial love prevails, misunderstood kids are welcomed with open arms, and a baddie begins to discover how love and forgiveness can make major changes in a person’s life.

It all kinda clicks, in a fun-and-happy LEGO way.

The Plugged In Show logo

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

Latest Reviews

the lego ninjago movie review

The Long Game

the lego ninjago movie review

The Greatest Hits

Weekly reviews straight to your inbox.

Logo for Plugged In by Focus on the Family

  • Australia edition
  • International edition
  • Europe edition

‘There’s a lingering sense of familiarity that persists and what felt fresh in the first film, and tweaked in The Lego Batman Movie, is at risk of feeling tired here’ ... The Lego Ninjago Movie.

The Lego Ninjago Movie review - zippy spinoff brings familiar, forgettable fun

The third movie in the surprisingly astute toy-based franchise covers similar ground but at such a fast pace, it’s impossible to be bored

F or a while, it became understandably easy to ridicule Hollywood studios for buying up the rights for essentially anything they could find. Transformers! A ouija board! Angry Birds! That bit of chicken you just spat out! The madness was contagious and so was the desire to write thinkpieces about how it was all signaling the official end of originality and quite possibly the apocalypse.

But then The Lego Movie was released and temporarily shut everyone up. It was smart and knowing without being smug and it managed to be self-critical yet also strangely optimistic. It was critical and commercial gold and led to the creation of something rare: a cinematic universe that people actually wanted. The Lego Batman Movie soon followed, pleasing most, and before The Lego Movie Sequel hits, we have another spinoff: The Lega Ninjago Movie. With any other newly created franchise, it could seem like overkill but it’s somehow hard to be too cynical about these films, despite how cynical it all seems on paper.

In this latest adventure, we find ourselves in the idyllic Ninjago community, a place that’s under the constant threat of destruction thanks to a neighboring volcano that houses super-villain Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux). It’s left up to a group of brave, if somewhat untrained, ninjas to fight him off, spearheaded by a very mysterious and very green hero. What the locals don’t realize is that behind the mask lies Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), a teen loathed by most for being the estranged son of Garmadon. When Ninjago is threatened by an even more terrifying force, father and son are forced into an uneasy partnership on a quest to save the day.

While Lego Movie masterminds Chris Miller and Phil Lord act just as producers here, the rapid-fire pace they perfected in not only the first movie but their ingenious 21 Jump Street reboot and the underrated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, is present here, with mixed results. The frantic, breathless procession of one-liners, in-jokes and action sequences means that not all of it lands but it helps to paper over some of the film’s cracks. You’ll find it hard to remember a scene that falls flat as it’s swiftly followed by a punchy joke or nifty visual Easter egg. There’s also the same self-awareness of cliche that prevents the formula from feeling too tired (a wonderfully silly scene that uses Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden to signal the arrival of sentiment is a particular standout).

Too often though, it’s easy to see how this is the handiwork of six credited screenwriters, a rushed flimsiness becoming increasingly apparent. There’s an unsuccessful live action framing device that sees Jackie Chan playing the owner of a mysterious store telling the story to a precocious kid. It’s not a particularly witty or necessary decision and the scenes seem to act more as a way of reminding younger viewers that these Lego figures are also real world collectibles that can be bought directly after the credits. There’s also a slightly lazy setup once we enter the world of Ninjago which sees a Good Morning America-style program explain the basics of the plot with little flair. The film arrives at a time when Hollywood has been blamed for whitewashing parts of Asian culture and there is something jarring about seeing American-sounding characters, voiced by largely white actors, exist in a foreign landscape, eating dumplings and surrounded by a Japanese aesthetic.

There’s a lingering sense of familiarity that persists and what felt fresh in the first film, and tweaked in The Lego Batman Movie, is at risk of feeling tired here. It’s most prominent in the film’s choice of villain: the dastardly Garmadon. Theroux offers up a combination of both Will Ferrell’s President Business and Will Arnett’s Batman yet fails to match either, his intonation distractingly similar to the latter, making it feel close to an impersonation. There’s also yet another father-son dynamic, the cornerstone of studio movie narratives, a set of heroes who feel copied from Captain Planet and a Despicable Me-esque attempt to humanize a bad guy, giving the plot a ramshackle patchwork feel as if it was rushed into production before anyone figured out exactly why it was being made in the first place.

But the reason is made abundantly clear by the end: merchandise. The action-packed plot allows for a multitude of toys to grace the screen and one can almost sense a “buy it now” tab appearing at the bottom. Its bluntness is just about countered by the script’s smattering of laughs that feel well-tailored to an audience less interested in playing with Lego at home. The franchise is showing signs of fatigue but for now, there’s enough here to play with.

  • The Lego Ninjago Movie is released in US cinemas on 22 September and in the UK on 13 October
  • The Lego Ninjago Movie
  • Animation in film
  • Comedy films
  • Jackie Chan
  • The Lego Movie

Comments (…)

Most viewed.

Jay's Brick Blog

A blog about LEGO bricks

Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

September 30, 2017 By Jay Ong 15 Comments

the lego ninjago movie review

I’ve been on holiday over the last 3 weeks and I managed to catch The LEGO Ninjago Movie in the cinema. Ever since my kid came along, it’s been an absolute challenge getting away for 2 hours to watch movies (you parents know what I’m talking about) so I had to sneak out with a friend after the missus and baby fell asleep to catch a midnight screening.

As the movie’s been out for about one and a half weeks now, I’ll start off by saying that this review will absolutely contain major spoilers so if you haven’t seen the LEGO Ninjago Movie yet and want to remain unspoiled, please stop reading now.

I will also preface this review with my expectations of the movie, to give you a better understanding of my frame of mind walking into the cinema. I was really looking forward to The LEGO Ninjago Movie. From the get-go, the premise of the movie was really promising.

the lego ninjago movie review

I like the Ninjago theme and think that it’s rather underrated amongst adult LEGO fans.

I am a big fan of the cast – the comedic pedigree of Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods and Fred Armisen, not to mention Constance Wu and Randall Park (from Fresh Off the Boat) seemed like an awesome ensemble of some of the best current-day comedians in Hollywood.

I am a big fan of HBO’s Silicon Valley so I was psyched to be hearing more of Zach Woods and Kumail Nanjiani.

I was also coming off of the slightly disappointing affair of The LEGO Batman Movi e. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie but it didn’t quite soar to the same heights as the first LEGO Movie which was such a refreshing and exceptional experience at the time, loved by both fans and critics alike.

With The LEGO Batman Movie, I really enjoyed the campy and comprehensive take on Batman, and all the DC in-jokes thrown in but I felt that it was a little too self-indulgent and one-dimensional. It was hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but it lacked a bit of that zaniness and creativity that The LEGO Movie was exceedingly generous with.

the lego ninjago movie review

The plot of The LEGO Ninjago Movie simultaneously treads familiar ground while throwing in a few twists to keep it fresh. The story revolves around Lloyd (pronounced Luh-Loyd) the Green Ninja and his struggles being loved by the inhabitants of Ninjago City as the bad-ass Green Ninja, while being vilified for being the son of Garmadon.

Ninjago City is a bustling metropolis that’s both futuristic and traditional at the same time, with the obvious Oriental/Japanese influence that you’d expect from the Ninjago theme. The City is constantly under threat from Lord Garmadon who lives just a stone’s throw away from the city in a Volcano in the middle of the sea and his army of deep sea-themed henchmen and shark machinations.

We also explore Lloyd’s sordid relationship with his absent father (Lord Garmadon) and his struggles growing up without a father figure in his life. Daddy issues abound in the movie and got a little old after awhile.

It’s a bit of a shame that the movie really revolves around Lloyd and Garmadon, which unfortunately relegates the rest of the cast into the background , even Sensei Wu . It almost feels like the rest of the cast’s talent is wasted, outside of say Zane and his robotic quips or a few choice lines from Jay.

Kai is almost silent throughout and it just felt like there was a ton of wasted potential for the “squad” and their chemistry to truly shine.

In terms of what the movie does really well, I was blown away by the animation and the rich tapestry of world-building that went into bringing Ninjago to life. The designers and animators have done an exceptional job fleshing out the universe. Ninjago City and its denizens feel organic and are bursting with life and character.

the lego ninjago movie review

The movie moves at a pretty fast pace which makes it a little hard keeping track of everything that goes on, but I loved all the little peeks at Ninjago City life as the inhabitants react in disgust to Lloyd, or panicking over Garmadon’s latest takeover attempt of the City. In many ways, the Ninjago universe mirrors the colourful cast and universe of The LEGO Movie, just with a ton of Japanese flavour sprinkled on it.

The movie really hits its stride in the first and second acts , where the action is fast and unrelenting. My absolute favourite parts of the movie were the Ninjas hopping into action, saving the City from Garmadon and his henchmen. The mechs are stunning, a lot of fun and felt like a love letter to Voltron, Power Rangers and Gundam. 

the lego ninjago movie review

The mech designs are brilliant and seeing them go to town with their weaponry amidst the crumbling bricks of Ninjago City is simply breathless – the set pieces and battle cinematography is second to none and is one of the few moments in the film where we can see the Ninjas coordinating with one another to take down a common foe.

To say that it’s a lot of fun is an understatement. These city fight scenes against Garmadon’s forces are among one of the most fun and exhilarating moments in any LEGO Movie.

the lego ninjago movie review

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the movie very funny. The jokes seemed to fall flat and it seemed like most of the best jokes were spoiled in the trailers.

Yeah, I could’ve avoided most of the trailers but I felt like it was a really bad decision to spoil “Meowthra” the real life cat that terrorises Ninjago City in both the trailers and posters. If they had kept this reveal for the movie, I think it would’ve been hilarious.

Also, I would’ve liked a bit more physical Jackie Chan humour, especially with the kung fu choreography . The fights that were in the movie were great and showed a lot of promise, but I really wanted a lot more. I think physical humour and gags were severely underused in the movie, as great physical humour has the potential to transcend not just language but age barriers as well.

Sadly, the movie loses a lot of steam as it approaches the third act , where the progression of the plot and characters suddenly accelerate into a jumbled and incoherent mess. This is where Lloyd and Garmadon start teaming up, and outside of some poignant/funny moments like Garmadon teaching Lloyd how to throw stuff, the movie seems to rush itself to the finish line in a very haphazard fashion.

It doesn’t help that the emotional climax happens in the third act, but I felt that it wasn’t properly built up properly throughout the first two acts.

The movie sends out some strong messages about absentee fathers, but because the plot progresses too rapidly, it doesn’t give you enough space to relate or to form a bond with the characters that it doesn’t quite feel like there’s a lot at stake with Lloyd and Garmadon’s relationship.

And this is ultimately where the movie falls short for me. While it is an absolute cinematic spectacle with some amazing set pieces, animation and art direction, the movie lacks the heart that was unashamedly the essence of The LEGO Movie , and to a weaker extent, The LEGO Batman Movie.

I can forgive the movie’s slightly underwhelming sense of humour and credit that to it being targeted at younger kids, but that’s no excuse for a movie to feel so empty.

Pixar is considered a legendary animated feature film production house not because of their creativity, art style, or technology but because their most successful movies like Up, Toy Story and Wall-E rightfully place an emotional connection at the forefront of the movies and build around it.

The LEGO Movie had plenty of heart, and you couldn’t help but relate with all the protagonists, Wyldstyle, Emmet and President Business because they were written well and came across as three dimensional characters who developed throughout the movie.

I didn’t quite get that from Lloyd and Garmadon’s dynamic. I thought Lloyd, voiced by Dave Franco was brilliant, but Garmadon’s writing and voice acting left a lot to be desired . He just felt like an underdeveloped character and outside of his backstory with Lady Iron Dragon/Misako, it didn’t feel like he grew much throughout the movie.

the lego ninjago movie review

Also while we’re at Garmadon, what is with the dark undertones of all three LEGO Movies and shitty dads/father figures? Surely there are other stories that can be told that don’t revolve around estranged fathers?

I think The LEGO Ninjago Movie exhibited a ton of promise, but was let down by weak writing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed myself in the cinema, but I felt like The LEGO Ninjago Movie could’ve done much more with all the tools they had at their disposal.

It sadly doesn’t reach the heights of The LEGO Movie but like The LEGO Batman Movie, is still worth a trip to the cinemas to watch it. It’s a really enjoyable romp and showcases some really epic action scenes and if you’re into mecha this movie will hit all the right notes for you. Just don’t expect a fully satisfying cinematic experience like The LEGO Movie delivered.

There were a few other smaller gripes that I had, such as the lack of Spinjitzu which was really surprising as its such a core component of the Ninjago theme and TV shows but they didn’t ultimately detract from my overall enjoyment of the movie.

One of the things the movie does well is that it remains approachable and easy enough for anyone to get into. You don’t need to know anything about Ninjago or any backstory of the TV show or sets to get into the movie, which I thought was a really smart thing to ensure that the movie remains accessible.

Is it a perfect movie? No, but it makes for a good family popcorn flick for those that love LEGO. Could it have been improved? Most definitely! Rating: 3/5

So yeah, that’s my thoughts on The LEGO Ninjago Movie. I’d love to hear what you thought of the movie in the comments section! Did you love it or hate it? What were your favourite parts?

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

' src=

November 11, 2017 at 4:06 AM

Great review. Not quite sure yet if I want to see it yet. When are you going to review the Ninjago city set?

' src=

November 2, 2017 at 1:30 AM

Excellently fair and well balanced review! As a parent, I went with two 12 yr old girls full of expectation and willing the film to hit all the right spots! It didn’t because of the reasons you’ve given, mainly poor script writing, and for all the technical wizardry, little emotional connection. The story had so many holes in it, you build five or six Taj Mahals and a couple of Millennium Falcons in them. It’s not all bad, it’s worth a watch, but don’t go out of your way. 3/5 is a fair summation – we won’t be talking about this movie this time next week, let alone next year.

' src=

October 16, 2017 at 8:17 AM

Recently saw it with my son – we both loved it. I’m a sucker for a great Dr Evil style villain, and loved Justin Theroux’s take on him. If you have Spotify, make sure it listen to Garmadon from the soundtrack.

Once again, Animal Logic (an Australian digital animation studio) have shown that their Lego animation game is seriously on point.

It’s probably not as good as the other two, and I hope we get a proper Lego Movie sequel before we get another spin off. However, I also loved that this both was and wasn’t an origin story, along with the awesome mech battles. The rest of the ninjas needed more time though.

' src=

October 6, 2017 at 5:16 AM

I agree with everything you said especially the bit about shit dads. I think Lego needs to lose its obsession with this topic as it can be hurtful to kids who have missing dads for whatever reasons, as well as maligning good dads such as yourself.

' src=

October 3, 2017 at 8:59 PM

Hey Jay, on the subject of Ninjago, I’m waiting eagerly to purchase Ninjago City but am wondering if double VIP points might be coming up soon – do you happen to know if there’s a calendar with upcoming promotions? I see the US has one but no news for Aus regarding these promotions.

' src=

October 3, 2017 at 1:18 PM

I saw the movie this weekend and really enjoyed it! Loved the brick built Ninjago City, the epic battles, the sea creature henchmen, and the story itself. I thought it was funny too. However, I do agree that the ninjas besides Lloyd were under-developed character-wise, which just makes me want to watch the show and get to know them better 🙂

' src=

October 3, 2017 at 6:57 AM

Yay!! You’re back!

Didn’t read your post though, haven’t seen the movie.

' src=

October 2, 2017 at 5:31 AM

I think that they could’ve utilised the former general number ones in the third act for some higher stakes in some parts that just felt boring. If it had been given a longer run time, I think it could’ve done better seeing that they wouldn’t have to have such a fast pace, and could spend more time on developing characters in the first act. The second act could basically stay the same, buy only with a few changes to further develop the characters.

' src=

October 1, 2017 at 11:02 PM

Like the batman movie, most of the best jokes were shown in the trailers, which ruined that movie for me, I felt disappointed after seeing it. Last weekend I took the kids and we all loved the movie, my daughter who had no idea about ninjago has become a fan, and wants the fire mech, and water strider toys for Christmas. To be honest I never really thought very much about ninjago before, I bought the temple of airjitzu because I thought it would look cool in my city, I had no idea who the characters were. Maybe Having very little knowledge about ninjago allowed me to see the movie without any preconceptions, as I did not leave the cinema feeling disappointed. Yes it wasn’t perfect, but it was enjoyable family entertainment. And every day this week both my kids have been playing ninjago with my small creator moudular city. I’m finding it very hard not to become lord business, they keep making all this weird dorky stuff!! So job well done warner brothers, we’ll be buying the toys , the video game and hopefully the DVD this Christmas. One more thing jay, do you think Meowthra is the same cat from the “believe” cat poster

' src=

October 1, 2017 at 8:29 PM

Screw the movie. I’m just glad to see you’re back and your absence was due to a holiday! ? Oh, I did enjoy the movie but I agree with you on most points. And yeah, I hadn’t thought of it but you’re spot on about the shit dad theme with Lego franchise movies. That needs to change. But probably the highlight for me was seeing those gorgeous Ninjago Movie sets brought to life. I just finished building Destiny’s Bounty and it’s in my top five Lego sets of all time. An absolute steal in the current sales.

' src=

October 1, 2017 at 5:29 PM

I went to see it last weekend and I thought it was great! BTW Jay when are u going to review the Lego Ninjago movie sets?

' src=

October 1, 2017 at 12:47 PM

I honestly never watch movies and I don’t intend to watch this one, but from what I saw from trailers and clips and stuff online, The LEGO Movie did look much better.

October 2, 2017 at 5:33 AM

Matt, that’s what everyone thought.

' src=

October 1, 2017 at 7:15 AM

I nearly fell asleep during this movie. And Miss 10 thought it was great. So if taking kids, maybe Adults should get a no-doz, or a big cup of coffee with their ticket purchase.

' src=

September 30, 2017 at 11:42 PM

You forgot to include Abbi Jacobson, co-creator and star of Broad City, who voiced Nya in the movie. Easily one of the best “current-day comedians in Hollywood.” However, given how little of a female presence in the movie there was, I guess you overlooking her is not surprising. Totally agree there was a lot of missed-opportunities when it came to utilizing the cast and characters.

' src=

Popular Posts

the lego ninjago movie review

Den of Geek

The Lego Ninjago Movie Review

The Lego Ninjago Movie, starring Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, and Jackie Chan, is the franchise's first dud.

the lego ninjago movie review

  • Share on Facebook (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Twitter (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Linkedin (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on email (opens in a new tab)

The Lego Movie franchise had to stumble eventually, right?

While The Lego Ninjago Movie will no doubt entertain hardcore fans of either the Ninjago-themed Cartoon Network TV series or Lego’s Ninjago toy line, The Lego Ninjago Movie is a lazy addition to this standout franchise that often entertains but never engages.

There are plenty of self-aware laughs to be had in the film’s 100-minute runtime, but  The Lego Ninjago Movie  lacks the heart of either of its Lego Movie predecessors. By the time you leave the theater, you will no doubt have already moved on from this shallow tale of father-son bonding wrapped up in a culturally-appropriated aesthetic of feudal Japan.

Ninjago  follows the character of Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco), the 16-year-old son of Ninjago’s conquering villain Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Garmadon lives just off the coast of Ninjago City, in his very own volcano lair, where he attacks Lloyd’s hometown once a day. As you might imagine, being the son of a homicidal, four-armed supervillain does not make Lloyd popular with the other kids. He spends most of his time with his five friends: Kai (Michael Pena), Cole (Fred Armisen), Nya (Abbi Jacobson), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), and Zane (Zach Woods). Together, Lloyd and his friends make up a band of masked teenage ninjas, trained by Lloyd’s uncle sensei Master Wu (Jackie Chan) to protect the city from Garmadon.

Ad – content continues below

It’s a fun premise, but one Ninjago doesn’t spend enough time setting up this Power Rangers -like team of heroes. This crew needed a more complete origin story. It’s like watching  The Return of the Jedi   without having seen the first two movies. Sure, it’s fun, but why do we care about this Luke Skywalker kid, his friend group, or his complicated family dynamics?

By the end of The Lego Ninjago Movie , I still can’t tell you which character has which color-power combination (red-fire, black-earth, gray-water, blue-lightning, and white-ice), let alone any personality characteristics. (Although Nanjiani’s Jay provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.) We cheer for Lloyd and his friends not because we want to, but because there’s nothing else to do with this movie.

Ninjago throws most of its energy into telling a paint-by-numbers father-son narrative, which might have been prudent if the whole thing didn’t play as flat as as the sides of smooth plastic blocks. This is a problem not only because this story has been told about a million times before, but because Ninjago never bothers to convince us that Garmadon deserves a redemption arc. This is a dude who gets up every morning and decides to wreak havoc, and not even because of some half-hearted villain origin story; he does it because it’s on brand.

Past that, Lloyd is the latest in a long line of lackluster movie Chosen Ones who becomes a hero not because he is particularly smart, brave, or kind, but because he is the golden-haired male with the familial connections. Lloyd’s alter ego is the “Green Ninja,” a vague descriptor that feels more like code for “Nepotism Ninja” than what the movie eventually tries to convince us it means. This is particularly frustrating in a franchise that cleverly picked apart the Chosen One narrative in its first film.

Perhaps the most glaring problem Ninjago has as a film is not in its plot, but in its purpose. The Lego Movie lampooned the Chosen One narrative in hilarious, clever, and heartfelt ways. The Lego Batman Movie took on the ubiquitous superhero narrative. The Lego Ninjago Movie should do the same for the rich ninja movie tradition. 

However, there is something unsettling about seeing a predominantly white creative team make a movie starring mostly white voice-actors about a popular art form that hails from another, non-white part of the world. There is a seeming lack of interest and understanding in the culture or even pop culture this movie ostensibly aims to explore.

The carefully-constructed cultural subversion and homage we get into the subjects of the first two Lego movies is missing here, and it leaves The Lego Ninjago Movie feeling frustratingly shallow.

Get the best of Den of Geek delivered right to your inbox!

Kayti Burt

Kayti Burt | @kaytiburt

Kayti is a pop culture writer, editor, and full-time nerd who comes from a working class background. A member of the Television Critics Association, she specializes…

  • The Inventory

The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame : The Kotaku Review

The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame is short and a little rough, but a dynamic new combat system and a couple surprising tweaks to aging mechanics make it one of the most exciting new Lego games in years.

The eight story chapters in the game focus on rehashing the plot of The Lego Ninjago Movie . Green ninja Lloyd and his ninja companions are the defenders of Ninjago City, a bright and garish Tokyo-esque metropolis located on an ancient island. The city is terrorized by the evil Lord Garmadon—Lloyd’s dad—and his army of aquatic-themed mechs and thugs. Eager to embrace his destiny and defeat his father once and for all, Lloyd screws up and puts all of Ninjago Island at risk. Only a spiritual journey to the heart of the island can help Lloyd come to terms with his parentage, gain his Spinjitsu power and save the day.

I didn’t expect much from The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame . Announced just three months ago with a date coinciding with the release of the movie, all signs pointed to a quick and dirty cash-in. It wouldn’t be bad—long-time Lego game studio TT Games never phones anything in—but it wouldn’t be anything special, either.

My preconceptions were shattered within the first few minutes of the game’s opening combat tutorial. With moves like the Rushing Boar charge attack, the ground-pounding Swooping Hawk and the Floating Butterfly, which is pretty much Sonic the Hedgehog’s homing attack, this isn’t the simplistic minifigure combat I am used to. This is so much better.

It’s less floaty flailing and more finesse. Spamming a single attack won’t do. Enemies quickly get wise and begin blocking, forcing players to mix things up. Accompanying the bold new combat is a combo system that rewards players with more studs (Lego’s traditional in-game currency) the longer they keep the hits coming. It’s a fighting system that encourages players to have fun with it.

And it is a whole lot of fun. Up until now, combat in TT Games’ Lego titles has been little more than an obstacle, something to keep players from getting from point A to point B—beat up five orcs or Stormtroopers or pirates or whatever to advance to the next area. In The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame , I actively seek out combat, both for the thrill and for the studs.

Collecting studs has always been a major part of TT Games’ Lego series. As players progress through a level they collect silver, gold, blue and purple studs by defeating enemies, smashing Lego objects or simply picking them up off of the ground. Each level has a stud goal to achieve, and reaching that goal is one of the series’ primary motivations. Collecting studs is also incredibly distracting. It’s hard to focus on what Luke Skywalker, Captain Jack Sparrow or Frodo Baggins is doing story-wise with that stud meter hanging over one’s head.

Some players can breeze through a Lego game level without worrying about studs, going back to collect them later in free play. I am not one of those players, so I really appreciate what The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame has done with stud collecting. For the first time since 2005's Lego: Star Wars , there is no per-level stud collecting requirement. It’s gone. Kaput. Good riddance.

Instead of a per-level stud meter, there’s a multi-leveled meter that follows the player throughout the game. Each time the player fills the meter completely, they gain a stud-collecting rank, earning a gold brick and some parts for the game’s custom character creator.

What a massive difference this simple change makes. Instead of being penalized for missing a goal, players are rewarded for achieving milestones. Finally I can enjoy the story in a Lego game without having those shiny little bastards constantly gnawing at the back of my mind.

Even better, studs are no longer required to unlock new characters. In previous Lego games players would discover or be rewarded with new characters upon completing goals. The characters would be added to their roster, but players had to pay studs in order to fully unlock them for play. It was an extra added step that made absolutely no sense. In The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame , new characters discovered or rewarded are immediately playable. Excellent.

These big changes to the Lego game formula layer nicely on top of gameplay elements introduced in more recent games. From Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens we get multi-builds, piles of bouncing Lego bricks that can be directed to different locations, offering multiple solutions to some of the game’s puzzles.

From Lego Dimensions we get multiplayer battle arenas, where up to four players can compete in a series of competitive games involving collecting artifacts or capturing flags. The game also features a series of dojos, special arenas where players battle waves of enemies in order to score studs and special characters.

It’s filler, but it’s good filler. It also gives the game a chance to explore much more of the Ninjago line’s seven year history than is covered in the under two-hour theatrical release it’s based on.

Though lighthearted and rife with humor, the story is the weakest part of The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame . As with many movie-centric Lego games, large chunks of plot are left out and characters disappear and then reappear with little explanation. The whole affair lasted all of three hours, and it did not end well at all. “Oh, I guess that’s it” were my exact words.

The real fun comes after the story’s over. Rather than being self-contained levels tied to a central hub, each of The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame ’s levels takes place in its own open free-roaming map. Once a chapter is complete the players is free to roam these massive areas, using all of their characters’ special skills and Spinjitsu powers to scour every inch for new friends and secrets.

It’s a grand treasure hunt that spans the entire island, from the Ninjago City Docks to the City of Fired Generals, a settlement built by the discarded generals fired (into a volcano) by Lord Garmadon. Each contains a battle arena to compete in, a dojo to challenge, hidden characters and gold bricks and multiple areas that can only be unlocked once a requisite number of gold bricks are discovered.

The only caveat here is that the exploration might not last long. I’ve been playing off and on since Friday afternoon, and I’ve already got more than 70 percent completion. Were I not writing this review, I might be done by now. It doesn’t help that the game includes an easily-acquired treasure radar. I mean, it does help, but I sure am speeding through now.

Reaching 100 percent completion on this one will be bittersweet, as I’ve really enjoyed my time with The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogam e, certainly much more than I’ve enjoyed typing out the name. It’s an unexpected treat of a game, one that bodes well for the future of the Lego video game series. A rapid-release movie tie-in is a really strange place for innovation, yet here it is.

Maybe if I pace myself can make that final 28 percent last until Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 arrives on November 14.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game Review (Switch)

Let go of this LEGO

Version Reviewed: North American

  • review by Steve Bowling Fri 13th Oct 2017

The LEGO franchise and the Switch have been good bedfellows of late, with both LEGO City Undercover and LEGO Worlds releasing on the console so far. The former we enjoyed. The latter? Not so much. Unfortunately for all of us, The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game  - from now on referred to simply as Ninjago, because that title is a mouthful - is more Worlds than Undercover.

If you've played a LEGO game from Traveler's Tales, then you know what to expect. Like most movie tie-in LEGO titles, Ninjago puts you in command of one of the group of ninja at a time. The levels are guided but somewhat open-ended as well; while you're given a set objective at the beginning of the level, there are numerous secrets to find, structures to break and studs to collect. The game tries to entice you into replaying levels by hiding untold numbers of secrets behind puzzles that can only be solved by a ninja not currently in your party, or with an ability you don't currently possess. 

The level designs themselves, however, feel somewhat uninspired, and left us feeling like there wasn't much reason to return. After each level you're treated to a clip from the movie, most of which we found enjoyable; if anything the game is an effective advert for the film. Telltale's writing chops are still as good as ever as well, with dialogue that is every bit as funny as that found in other LEGO franchises.

Areas are quite detailed, and the sheen on the faux LEGOs is pretty convincing, but there was nothing in the varied environments that had us wanting to come back for a second look.  More importantly, long load times made us dread changing areas. The loading screen features a view of the area you'll be playing in as though it were a real LEGO playset, which is interesting, but it's not worth spending 15-30 seconds on each time.

Mechanically, Ninjago works about as well as you might expect it to. Combat is strictly a button-mashing affair but it gets the job done. There are abilities, dubbed Ninjanuities(groan) which can be purchased using Ninjanuity Tokens (double groan). Each time you earn a token you are forced to spend it immediately; each ability costs a single token, so there's some value to that, but it's harmful to the overall experience to be removed from what you're doing to buy an ability you may not need at that moment. 

Two-player co-op play is available but we can hardly recommend it. The screen is split vertically and the framerate takes a nose dive. It isn't entirely unplayable in TV mode, but in portable mode you're can kiss your chances of understanding what's happening goodbye. Playing with a friend definitely adds value to the game, as your AI partners are typically useless in any practical sense. While you clear an area of enemies, all too often you'll find your AI buddy struggling with the same foe they were on when you started. The partner you have exists only to be window dressing and for you to control when the game demands that both ninjas solve a puzzle.

Running around smacking bad guys is fun to an extent, but it's when the game starts to wander from the beaten path that we experienced trouble. Not content to adhere strictly to a known formula, Ninjago introduces some new gameplay types, such as a Panzer Dragoon-esque on-rails shooter in which you fly around Ninjago (the city) fending off evil forces - but the game doesn't really handle this well. The framerate takes a very clear dip here, and the Switch sometimes chokes under the number of enemies on screen at once. It's easy to think this is the fault of the system, but we've seen much more impressive feats pulled of on the console from other developers.

New gameplay isn't the only fault we found with Ninjago, either. Many times during our playthrough the game would inexplicably freeze, or the camera would lock in an area where all we could see was the top of our hero's head. This wasn't limited to gameplay either, as we noted this happened several times during cutscenes. During the course of our playthrough for the purposes of this review, it became standard practice to quit the game if a black screen appeared for too long, as it sometimes did during scene transitions.

LEGO games are typically quite good. Movie franchise games are typically quite bad. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game is, both, but ultimately it feels more like a movie game than a LEGO game. Poor level design, long load times and bugs make for a game that doesn't realise its full potential; funny dialogue and entertaining movie clips can't elevate this one to greatness. If you're looking for a great LEGO game for your Switch, stick to Undercover for now.

About Steve Bowling

Steve's three-and-a-half years with Nintendo Life saw him covering games with news, reviews, interviews, guides, and more. His past work can also be found on IGN and Kotaku, and in 2020 he co-founded Good Vibes Gaming .

  • Author Profile

Comments 28

  • Fri 13th Oct 2017

I expected this. I bought Lego City and I'll buy Marvel Superheroes 2 too, but I skipped this for good reason

  • RyanSilberman

"Telltale's writing chops are still as good as ever as well"

Shame. Loved the movie but I’m getting annoyed that these Lego games continue to be unoptimized for Nintendo platforms.

Oh well, guess i'll have to spinjitsu in a different game.

  • ZeldaToThePast

I rented it, kinda boring, though I know nothing of Ninjago. I'll finish it maybe.

I wouldn't be surprised if LEGO originally intended to have Lloyd (The Green Ninja) bundled with a Lego Dimensions Story Pack but due to the 3rd Year of it being cancelled, they rushed to salvage the project and just released it as a solo game.

  • Spoony_Tech

I'll still have to get it cheap for my son one day. He loves all the Lego games!

  • KirbyTheVampire

No loss for me. I don't think I'll ever buy a LEGO game again. Not my thing at all.

Glad I held off on buying this for kiddos. I'll wait for a discount of they still want it. There is always Lego Marvel 2

  • thesilverbrick

Hey! A subpar review for a retail Switch game! You don't see those often around here.

@Spoony_Tech "cheap for my son one day"

That day will likely be very soon after Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 releases. But be nice and buy him Marvel for Christmas, pick up Ninjago for MLK Jr. or President's Day or something. We were going to hold off on Marvel until a sale, skipping Ninjago entirely, but we realized Mario, Sonic and XC2 are all really single player games, so we need Lego Marvel for all the long car rides and family gatherings this holiday.

The Marvel game coming out next month looks so much better than this one. I can't help but think they had the A team working on Marvel and some outsourced B team working on this. I'll be shocked if Marvel doesn't get better than a 5.

@Steve_Bowling @RyanSilberman Maybe I missed something, but I think the reviewer mixed up Telltale (famous for their narrative games) with Traveller's Tales (developer of the Lego titles). Easy mistake to make.

@rjejr Sounds like a plan.

  • WolfWarrior

NintendolIfe gave it a lower score than any other critic. The other reviewers go much more in depth so I recommend reading them before making your decision.

  • Anti-Matter

Oh, well... Another Mediocre LEGO games again...

@ZeldaToThePast You can still rent games!?

Jump up, kick back, whip around and spin....

  • Heavyarms55

I feel like Lego games, which began as fun kids games, have devolved into merely licensing cash grabs. Like most movie games were back in the 90s and 2000s when basically everything got a game made of it, even when it made no sense to make into a game. (Seriously, there was a Tim Allen Home Improvement platformer game on SNES!)

Tt games always have these issues especially on Nintendo consoles. They don't seem to care at all about bugs and glitches . It's a shame as in other aspects these games can be great fun .

  • darkswabber

@NintenNinja16 probably true, within the LD community it’s well known year 3 got cancelled, shame because some of the cancelled IP’s would have been awesome to have physical minifigures of (looney toones, james bond and blues brothers to name a few)

My son and I played The Complete Lego Star Wars on Wii through to completion. We had so much fun! It's a game that I will always have very fond memories of. I've bought several Lego games since - including the other Lego Star Wars games - but they've all been a bit of a disappointment...

  • Varoennauraa

Wireless multiplayer! Put it in there 🎃

  • The8BitLego

Traveller's Tales makes the lego games, not TellTale.

  • Sat 14th Oct 2017

@Starbuster Haha, someone always says this every once in a while.

  • Angelic_Lapras_King

Oh well, we've probably getting as many Lego movies as there are Lego games now......which will probably mean more games to tie in too.

Lego DC Expanded Universe anyone?

  • Sun 15th Oct 2017

This game may not be good but the review itself is poorly written as well. So a 5/10 to the reviewer as well.

Slow loading times? Still? pass.

  • Thu 14th Jun 2018

@Drac_Mazoku How do get to set up for 2 players in Nintendo Switch?

Tap here to load 28 comments

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...

Related Articles

Balatro Is Getting Its First Major Update

The roguelike deck builder has more on the way

Nintendo Expands Switch Online's SNES Library With Three More Titles

Including a few Japanese exclusives

Stardew Valley Version 1.6 Update Will Be Released On Switch "As Soon As Possible"

"I really appreciate your patience"

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance's Protagonist Rocks An Awesome New Look

'Sacrifice' trailer debuts

Saber Interactive CEO Doesn't Think $70 Video Games Are Sustainable

"I think the market is going to shift"


the lego ninjago movie review

How Lego Series ‘Ninjago: Dragons Rising' Breathed Fire Into the 13-Year-Old Franchise

Ninjas have never been out of vogue but between last year's Turtles animated feature "Mutant Mayhem" and the recently-released Netflix series "House of Ninjas," it's fair to say they're having a moment.

Not that your average "Ninjago" fan (average age 6-8) would care about whether or not ninjas are in vogue. Since launching simultaneously as a show and product 13 years ago, the Lego-originated IP has spawned 16 seasons, 235 episodes, a 2017 feature film starring Jackie Chan, theme park attractions and, of course, plenty of toys.

In 2023 "Ninjago" was semi-rebooted under a fresh title "Ninjago: Dragons Rising," which introduced new characters and story arcs. In part the change came about because the "Ninjago" universe was so vast there was no easy access point for a new generation of kids. "There's so much material, it's our longest running show," says Asa Tait, head of production at Lego's entertainment division and an exec producer on "Dragons Rising." "[The new show is] a place and a story where you can come in fresh and feel like this is a world that stands on its own."

The reboot also gave the creative team at Canada-based content company WildBrain, who make the show, an opportunity to update – and up - the production values by moving the show onto Unreal Engine while Wildbrain's art director Daniel Wang refined the animation. "Daniel developed a stylized, sculpted look to give the show a subtle, painterly feel," explains series director Richard Johnson. "And then we enhanced this further with cinematic lighting and some CG effects that were available to us in Unreal."

The inherent problem with "Ninjago" as a concept is that in real life Lego minifigs can only swing their arms and legs forward and backwards – making it a challenge to portray them as lithe and graceful ninjas. "They're so angular and boxy and we're using multiple forms of martial arts," Johnson acknowledges. Animation techniques such as squash and stretch and lighting help to mitigate that somewhat. Wang also gave the characters' torsos "a little bit of shape, so they're not completely flat," Johnson adds. "It allowed the characters to catch light" giving the production a more cinematic feel. Conversely, the dragons were designed to look more angular to match the product.

Tait describes the relationship between the show and the toy as synchronous, with both the product designers and writers having input in both directions. "There are definitely times when product design is driving this, they've come up with something amazing that they've tested and kids love," he explains. "There have definitely also been times when we're in a room cracking story and the writers come up with a character that everybody falls in love with. And that character was never meant to necessarily be a minifig but now they are." Tait cites Season 1 breakout Wyldfyre (voiced by Kazumi Evans) as an example. "That was a character purely created for the show that did not come from the design side. But as [the writers] were talking about it, the designers were sketching and being inspired and thinking like, ‘Oh, this is really cool. What can we do with this?'"

Having set the characters and tone for the first season, the second season (which drops today on Netflix in the U.S. and ITVX in the U.K.) was an "easier" proposition, according to Johnson. The creative team – including writers Doc Wyatt and Kevin Burke - knew there was definitely going to be more then one season, enabling them to create some foreshadowing and develop longer story arcs.

Although Tait wouldn't reveal how many seasons of "Dragons Rising" fans can expect, he did say there is a multi-season story mapped out. "We wanted to create a space where we could keep throwing these wild new ideas at the world but also be telling one story that's continuous across the length of the show," he says. As for a feature film: "I wouldn't say no."

Even with the high-volume series (both seasons of "Dragons Rising" run to 20 episodes), the show maintains a cinematic quality that is in equal parts down to the writing and the production, including lighting and voice acting ("Our voice talent is amazing," says Johnson. "I'm usually crying in the booth when they're recording.")

"Doc and Kevin and really the whole writing team really do take these characters and this world seriously," says Tait. "They really respect kids and that shows. They don't talk down to kids. They understand that kids that age are maybe going through more than a lot of shows might give them credit for and don't shy away from representing that and engaging with some of that in the show."

Given its longevity, the franchise has amassed a sizeable teenage and adult audience too, but the writers ensure they're focused on the 6 to 8 year old demographic. Even so, among the themes "Dragons Rising" tackles is friendship, betrayal, loss and frustration. "You can go through grief and disappointment and confusion about where your life is going even when you're eight years old," Tait points out. "Those are universal themes."

More from Variety

  • Lego Film Boss Jill Wilfert Reflects on 10 Years of 'The Lego Movie,' How 'Barbie' Changed the Toy-to-Film Landscape and What to Expect From Their Universal Deal
  • Epic's 'Fortnite' to Allow Players to Build and Profit From Their Own 'Official' Lego Island Games

How Lego Series ‘Ninjago: Dragons Rising' Breathed Fire Into the 13-Year-Old Franchise

The 10 Best Cheap LEGO Sets in 2024

Don't break the bank..

The 10 Best Cheap LEGO Sets in 2024 - IGN Image

LEGO is very fun. But as anyone who's wandered into the LEGO aisle can attest, that fun comes with a hefty price tag.

Many of the best LEGO sets for adults that trend on social media will run you about $150-$200 on the low end, and a massive set with third-party branding can run even higher. The 7541-piece LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon, long considered to be the gold standard of LEGO builds, costs $849.99 . That's approximately what the average American, in an entry-level position, makes in a week.

But LEGO has sets for every budget, and it pays to be a smart, frugal shopper. Here are the best cheap LEGO sets that you can buy in 2024 for under $25.


LEGO Brickheadz Eve & Wall-E

  • Set: #40619
  • Age Range: 10+
  • Piece Count: 155
  • Dimensions: 3 in. (8 cm) high, 1.5 in. (5 cm) high
  • Price: $14.99

A great example of LEGO at its minimalist best, these models of EVE and WALL-E make perfect desk displays, and each comes with a black base plate stand for that purpose. See our picks for the best LEGO Disney sets for pricier options.

2 Fast 2 Furious Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34 )

2 Fast 2 Furious Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)

  • Set: #76917
  • Age Range: 9+
  • Piece Count: 319
  • Dimensions: 2 in. (5 cm) high, 6.5 in. (16 cm) long, 2.5 in. (7 cm) wide
  • Price: $24.99

A 300+ piece count set for $25 is a pretty good bargain. The car itself is cool-looking and detailed, and it even comes with a Paul Walker-inspired LEGO Minifigure.

Potted Groot

LEGO Brickheadz Potted Groot

  • Set: #40671
  • Piece Count: 113
  • Dimensions: 3.5 in. (9 cm) tall
  • Price: $9.99

This is Groot as you see him at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie —potted and grooving to the Jackson Five. This is a model in LEGO's collectible Brickheadz line, and you might want to check out all of them , since they're each $10.

Carousel Ride

LEGO Carousel Ride

  • Set: #40714
  • Age Range: 8+
  • Piece Count: 232
  • Dimensions: 5 in. (13 cm) high, 5.5 in. (14 cm) wide, 5 in. (13 cm) deep
  • Price: $24.95

LEGO's most underrated brand is its Fairground line. And although it's been a couple of years since the Loop Coaster (their last major set), LEGO has released several smaller rides in this interim. This menagerie Carousel Ride turns, thanks to the gears and LEGO Technic hidden in the model's base.

Japan Postcard

LEGO Japan Postcard

  • Set: #40713
  • Piece Count: 262
  • Dimensions: 4 in. (10 cm) high

LEGO has numerous postcard builds, each from a major city around the world. This one of Japan includes Mount Fuji, a cherry blossom tree, and a recreation of Himeji Castle.

Spider-Man Venom Mech Armor vs. Miles Morales

LEGO Marvel Venom Mech Armor vs. Miles Morales

  • Set: #76276
  • Age Range: 6+
  • Piece Count: 134
  • Dimensions: 5 in. (13 cm) tall

There are LEGO mech builds in both the Marvel LEGO and LEGO Ninjago lines, and they are typically a great bargain. You get a fully articulable, large model for $15 on average. This particular set contains a Symbiote-laced mech and two Minifigures: one of Miles Morales, and another of Venom, who also fits in the mech's cockpit. These mech builds also make great LEGO sets for kids .

Supersonic Jet

LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Supersonic Jet Plane

  • Set: #31126
  • Age Range: 7+
  • Piece Count: 215
  • Dimensions: 3 in. (8 cm) high, 10.5 in. (27 cm) long, 6 in. (16 cm) wide
  • Price: $19.99

Make three different vehicles out of this single set of bricks. You can build a power boat or a helicopter, but you'll likely opt for the sleek Supersonic Jet, which comes with retractable wheels.

Cherry Blossoms

LEGO Cherry Blossoms

  • Set: #40725
  • Piece Count: 430
  • Dimensions: 14 in. (35 cm) long

An entry in LEGO's Botanical line, these cherry blossoms are pink-on-pink and pink-on-white. There are even some buds mixed in with the blossoms, which really sells the illusion and makes it look real from a distance.

Technic Heavy Duty Bulldozer

LEGO Technic Heavy-Duty Bulldozer

  • Set: #42163
  • Piece Count: 195
  • Dimensions: over 3 in. (8 cm) high, 4 in. (10 cm) long and 3 in. (8 cm) wide
  • Price: $12.99

LEGO Technic sets are often inspired by real-like automobiles, and tend to be on the expensive side. But this bulldozer set is a perfect, affordable introduction to Technic. It rolls on treads, and its shovel blade moves up and down.

Retro Camera

LEGO 3-in-1 Retro Camera

  • Set: #31147
  • Piece Count: 261
  • Dimensions: 2.5 in. (7 cm) high, 5 in. (13 cm) wide and 3 in. (8 cm) deep

This 1980's styled camera has a lot of fun features and accessories, including a multi-colored strap, film that loads into the back of the camera, and a rotating lens. You can also take it apart and rebuild it into a retro TV or a retro camcorder.

How much are you willing to spend on a LEGO set?

the lego ninjago movie review

The big sets get the press, but there are plenty of cheaper sets that give you a great building experience and an attractive end result. They're perfect to give as a small gift, either to a friend or to yourself, or as a stopgap measure, while you're saving up for the expensive set that you've had your eyes on.

For more cheaper-than-usual sets, take a look at our always updated best LEGO deals . And for more great set ideas, check out our picks for the best Harry Potter LEGO sets as well as the best Star Wars LEGO sets .

Kevin Wong is a contributing freelancer for IGN, specializing in LEGO. He's also been published in Complex, Engadget, Gamespot, Kotaku, and more. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinjameswong .

In This Article


IGN Recommends

Fallout London Creators Forced to Delay Hotly Anticipated Mod Out of Fear Fallout 4’s Next-Gen Update Will Break It

How Lucy MacLean and Her "Okey Dokeys" Became Fallout's Secret Weapon

111 Video Game Details in the Fallout TV Show


  1. The LEGO Ninjago Movie

    the lego ninjago movie review

  2. The Lego Ninjago Movie review

    the lego ninjago movie review

  3. The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

    the lego ninjago movie review

  4. The LEGO Ninjago Movie movie review (2017)

    the lego ninjago movie review

  5. The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

    the lego ninjago movie review

  6. The Lego Ninjago Movie review: Fun and fast paced reboot brings a

    the lego ninjago movie review



  2. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review

  3. The lego ninjago movie review

  4. Go NinjaGO Ninja!

  5. Lego Ninjago Training

  6. Lego Ninjago Movie: SHARK ATTACK 10739 Speed Build


  1. The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

    The battle for NINJAGO City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, aka the Green Ninja, along with his friends, also secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise ...

  2. The LEGO Ninjago Movie movie review (2017)

    The shift seems like a cynical ploy to make the movie more marketable. For the record, they are Kumail Nanjiani (Jay), Fred Armisen (Cole), Michael Pena (Kai), Abbi Jacobson (Nya) and Zach Woods (Zane). Jackie Chan plays their wise leader, Master Wu, and Olivia Munn has a small supporting role as Lloyd's mom, Koko.

  3. The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Review

    Verdict. While The LEGO Ninjago Movie does venture into overly cliched and cheesy territory at times, the performances of its actors and excited attitude of the material keep it from ever going ...

  4. The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

    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.

  5. The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

    In fact, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is still quite spirited, funny, and fully enjoyable. Full Review | May 13, 2020. Charlotte Harrison Den of Geek. The film is so high-energy and desperate to keep ...

  6. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review: As Hilarious as its Predecessors

    Every bit as irreverent, smart, and ridiculously entertaining as its predecessors, " The LEGO Ninjago Movie " proves that these films are now on the brink of becoming a viable brand unto ...

  7. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review: Delightfully Silly and Charming

    Read Matt Goldberg's The LEGO Ninjago Movie review; the film features the voices of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Kumail Nanjiani, and Jackie Chan.

  8. Film Review: 'The Lego Ninjago Movie'

    Based on Lego's ninja-themed original property - already a Cartoon Network TV show - the film is a hyperkinetic assault of eye-catching faux stop-motion animation; packed with clever, self ...

  9. The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

    Permalink. Six Lego near Ninjas that act more like Power Rangers must protect their city against the constant attacks of Evil Lord Garmadon. Lloyd, the Green Ninja is Garmadon's son who everyone avoids like the plague except his fellow Ninjas. Yes the plot had that "Darth Vader, I am your son" moment.

  10. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Review

    Now, Charlie Bean's The LEGO Ninjago Movie is Hollywood's third foray into the realm of animated LEGOs, and while the ninja-centric spinoff is heavy on laughs, fun, and adventure, it also feels ...

  11. Review: The Lego Ninjago Movie is fine, if you know what Ninjago is

    The Lego Ninjago Movie isn't trying to launch or critique a franchise so much as extend an existing one. And while the Lego movies' slide toward Saturday morning cartoon territory is ...

  12. The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

    The Lego Ninjago Movie: Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan. With Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani. Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas.

  13. The Lego Ninjago Movie

    The Lego Ninjago Movie is a 2017 animated martial arts comedy film produced by Warner Animation Group, RatPac Entertainment, ... On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 55% based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10.

  14. 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' Review

    Ninjago is, in other words, the kind of imagination-inhibiting toy that represented everything dumb and oppressive in 2014's The Lego Movie. (And from which that year's self-serving Beyond the ...

  15. The LEGO Ninjago Movie

    The battle for Ninjago City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, aka the Green Ninja, along with his friends, who are all secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise, they must defeat evil warlord Garmadon, The Worst Guy Ever, who also happens to be Lloyd's dad. Pitting mech against mech and father against son, the epic showdown will test this fierce but ...

  16. Review: 'The Lego Ninjago Movie' Sticks to the Instruction Manual

    The Lego Ninjago Movie. Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan. Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family. PG. 1h 41m. By A.O. Scott. Sept. 20, 2017. "When are the Wegos coming on ...

  17. The LEGO Ninjago Movie

    For a FREE 30-day trial, please visit

  18. The LEGO Ninjago Movie

    The third entry in the LEGO movie franchise definitely takes a different tack than the first two super hero-focused flicks. But this latest LEGO tale still feels, uh, apiece with the plastic-block cinematic universe we've come to know so well. It's packed with quick irreverent quips and break-everything-into-pieces goofy action.

  19. The Lego Ninjago Movie review

    The Lego Ninjago Movie: 'There's a lingering sense of familiarity that persists and what felt fresh in the first film, and tweaked in The Lego Batman Movie, is at risk of feeling tired here.'

  20. Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

    In many ways, the Ninjago universe mirrors the colourful cast and universe of The LEGO Movie, just with a ton of Japanese flavour sprinkled on it. The movie really hits its stride in the first and second acts, where the action is fast and unrelenting. My absolute favourite parts of the movie were the Ninjas hopping into action, saving the City ...

  21. The Lego Ninjago Movie Review

    The Lego Ninjago Movie Review. The Lego Ninjago Movie, starring Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, and Jackie Chan, is the franchise's first dud. By Kayti Burt | September 21, 2017 |

  22. The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame: The Kotaku Review

    Kotaku. Review. The Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame is short and a little rough, but a dynamic new combat system and a couple surprising tweaks to aging mechanics make it one of the most exciting new ...

  23. Review: The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game (Switch)

    LEGO games are typically quite good. Movie franchise games are typically quite bad. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game is, both, but ultimately it feels more like a movie game than a LEGO game ...

  24. How Lego Series 'Ninjago: Dragons Rising' Breathed Fire Into the 13

    Not that your average "Ninjago" fan (average age 6-8) would care about whether or not ninjas are in vogue. Since launching simultaneously as a show and product 13 years ago, the Lego-originated IP ...

  25. The 10 Best Cheap LEGO Sets in 2024

    Set: #40619. Age Range: 10+. Piece Count: 155. Dimensions: 3 in. (8 cm) high, 1.5 in. (5 cm) high. Price: $14.99. A great example of LEGO at its minimalist best, these models of EVE and WALL-E ...