Directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan
Runtime: 101 blocked out minutes
Do I have a funny story for you? That is always a good way to set up a funny story, and certainly removes all further pressure from this review, surely. The other day, I went to attend The Emoji Movie, because if you are going to be a film critic, it is important to offset pretense by putting yourself through something the layperson wouldn’t. It’s penance for being snobby. During my interaction with the lovely cinema employee, and my reassurance that I was attending the Emoji Movie because I am a reviewer (“I swear”), something got muddled up and they printed me off tickets for The LEGO Ninjago Movie. I walked away, looked at my tickets, realised there had been a mix-up and lined up to get them corrected. Then I thought to myself, “Why am I bothering with this?” and just went to see The LEGO Ninjago Movie instead.
Matt’s Helpful Public Speaking Fact: When you get up on stage, shake your limbs about frantically. This sheds off any excess dignity you may have walked up with, and frees you up to make a further ass of yourself.
Matt’s Helpful Movie Fact: Movies with “Movie” in the title are usually worth avoiding. Also try to avoid anything with “Movie: The Game” in its title, or “Movie: The Game: The Cereal”.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie does not inspire me to write a review for it. If you know what it is, then you’ll know whether or not you want to go. This decision has likely been made by children—children of any age. I’m not judging; the LEGO Cinematic Universe (is that a thing?) has a certain charm to it. I mean, they weren’t charming enough to get me into the cinema, but I still haven’t seen a Thor. Some films are events, and others are events you forget to go to and your life doesn’t change. My osmotic opinion is that this film could in no way be as charming as either The LEGO Movie or The LEGO Batman Movie, but it is competently made, although not very “Legoey”. Is that an adjective? If not, it should be.
Matt’s Helpful Word Fact: “legoey”, adj.: 1. Possessive of the qualities of LEGO, “that foot looks very legoey—let me get the iodiney wound-wash”; 2. A descriptive term to convey the taste of pasta dishes—“this ravioli could be a little more legoey; don’t let Nonna know I didn’t make the sauce myself”.
Matt’s Helpful Movie Fact #2: If you put the second Thor movie over the top of the first one, you have a stack forming. I don’t know what happens if you play them over the top of each other. Why would I have ever done that?
The film is written by a pop-star of writers (that’s the collective term, right?), and it’s got its punches. A lot of them happened very fast and very noisily, so I will summarise them by saying “I’m old”. They happened, I suppose. I did laugh at some of the one-liners Garmadon (Justin Theroux) had. After a battle with the Green Ninja, Garmadon leaves the battle and asks one of his generals if the Green Ninja is still staring at him. “Yes, sir”, answers the general. Garmadon’s reply: “Weirdo.” Screw you, it made me laugh. That’s right, a review about a LEGO movie just insulted you. The gag might need context, but this movie is a lot less effective at giving that out than rapidly firing off the jokes.
Matt’s Helpful Movie Fact #3: If a movie insults you, stay until the end. Confirm that it was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and make sure you don’t make the mistake again. They’ve already got your money: they won. Waste more of your time, regret every second, and never forget what they robbed you of.
Matt’s Helpful Movie Fact #4: If the X-Men copied Justin Theroux’s use of the letter “x”, they would just be the “Men”.
Matt’s Helpful Political Fact: Justin Theroux is not the Prime Minister of Canada.
Like the other LEGO movies seem to—according to their trailers—The LEGO© Ninjago™ Movie® is self-aware. A lot of its jokes, and even some of its more “serious” moments are lamp-shading of the highest order. The characters are aware that they are pieces of plastic block, and that they are play things in a super-conventional three act arc where everybody learns a lesson. It does this more effectively than your average modern Simpsons episode, and given that the LEGO Cinematic Universe has set its own rules, it can play loose with these sorts of things, and I suppose they are sort of funny.
Matt’s Helpful Word Fact #2: When unsure whether to use “®”, “™”, or “©”, just dress up as Chewbacca and make a YouTube video. Someone from Disney will be more than happy to explain it to you.
Matt’s Helpful Word Fact #3: Any trailer over 5:00 is technically a mobile home.
At one point, the protagonists take their arch-nemesis with them on their journey to become better ninja, because they need someone to teach them to battle their only nemesis—the guy they’ve got with them. It’s weird, but I’m not here to kink shame. If you go to The LEGO Ninjago Movie for tightly character-influenced narrative, then you are the dirty, dirty boy/girl/other.
Matt’s Helpful Movie Fact #5: Matt once reviewed Fifty Shades Darker. The review was even less sexy than the movie… which wasn’t very sexy. In fact, most of my film reviews can be a stop-gap for loneliness for those in the wake of a rough break-up. My first goal is to provide my recommendation as to how to watch a piece of cinema, and my secondary goal is to put the suffering libido out of its misery. Like Old Yeller, or anyone fifty-eight minutes into a zombie film.
Matt’s Helpful Word Fact #4: The plural of “ninja” is “ninja”. This is so they can be disguised as sheep.
I recognised the voice of Dave Franco (the season of Scrubs that may have been a collective fever dream, James’s brother, a hilarious Tinder sketch with Conan O’Brien, and an upcoming movie based on The Room). I liked his performance. He brings an enthusiasm to the role that I imagine must be tiring as a voice actor, even if you really enjoy the work and see participating in this franchise as being part of a legacy. Justin Theroux sounded enough like Will Arnett that I checked Wikipedia to make sure it wasn’t him. He delivers his lines quite well, and anyone who sounds like Will Arnett is doing well for themselves. Abbi Jacobson plays Nya—the water ninja. She’s going to star in Matt Groening’s upcoming Netflix comedy, Disenchantment, for which Indigenous rapper, Briggs, has been confirmed as a writer. Jackie Chan plays Master Wu—who sounds Chinese, but teaches a Japanese art. He’s always welcome, but if you want some Jackie Chan enjoyment, you’re probably better off watching him do his own stunts and fight choreography on YouTube. There are other cast members, and they are all fine, but it’s not really important.
Matt’s Helpful Movie Fact #6: Conan O’Brien has a great cameo in Todd Solondz’s Storytelling, where he helps burn John Goodman, a guest on his very first Late Night show, at the stake.
Matt’s Helpful Helpful Fact Fact: None of these facts are particularly “helpful”, even if you do find them slightly interesting. If you do find them helpful, then you are in an interesting situation that has probably never been encountered before, and you should probably write about that. It would be helpful.
The film is aware enough to know that we’re not really fleshing out characters here. They each represent an element, are colour-coded, and have a slightly different robot. It was like Power Rangers in that sense. I am not going to say it was bad because I didn’t get it. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will think this is a bunch of fun. It seemed to engage a lot of the children that were in attendance. Maybe they were just pumped on that drug from the latest Kingsman? I know that I did get bored a few times, however. I mean, it’s far from the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but there was so much noise, and there was a random cat, and my drink was too bubbly…
And that is why you should punish that employee for mixing up my movie ticket, no matter how lovely they are.
Annoying Customer and Notorious Fuddy-Duddy