Returns may be diminishing from The LEGO Movie to The LEGO Batman Movie to this latest brick-based adventure, but there’s still more creativity and playfulness than most animated features can muster. In the town of Ninjago, teenager Lloyd (Dave Franco) is ostracized for being the son of super-villain Garmadon (Justin Theroux)—even as he fights his dad in disguise as part of a team of ninja warriors trained by Garmadon’s brother, Master Wu (Jackie Chan). The potentially rote father-son dynamic gets a bit of a clever kick—it’s basically “what if Luke Skywalker knew from birth that his dad was Darth Vader”—especially when sentimental moments provide a Jerry Maguire-esque Bruce Springsteen underscore. While there’s less of a dedication here to mimicking a child’s sense of anarchic play—outside of making one monstrous antagonist a live-action cat—the creative team keeps jokes coming at an almost Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker pace, right from the opening logo with a nod to Shaw Brothers kung-fu flicks. Even after the so-cliché-you-wouldn’t-believe-me-if-I-told-you revelation for our hero, there’s enough humor that the whole thing just clicks.
Director: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan
Producer: Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris McKay, Maryann Garger, Roy Lee, Jill Wilfert, Keith Malone, Simon Lucas, Chris Leahy, Seth Grahame-Smith, Zareh Nalbandian and Brett Ratner
Cast: Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, David Burrows, Alex Kauffman, Justin Theroux, Ali Wong, Garret Elkins, Todd Hansen, Doug Nicholas, Charlyne Yi, Vanara Taing, Olivia Munn, Laura Kightlinger, Randall Park, Retta, Chris Hardwick, Bobby Lee, Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan and Constance Wu